02 March 2021

Neonicotinoids - updated

This summer [2014] the StarTribune carried a long feature article on the possible role of neonicotinoids in the decline of bees.
A new class of insecticides first introduced in 1994 that is relatively harmless to people and animals — neonicotinoids. Now added routinely as a coating on seeds, neonicotinoids provide additional insurance against soil pests. And, like the genetic traits, they become an intrinsic part of the plant as it grows.

“It started in 2002,” said Chuck Benbrook, a professor who studies sustainable agricultural systems at Washington University. “By 2006 neonicotinoids had cornered the market.”..

When it comes time to buy seed, farmers have a dwindling number of alternatives. Three corporations control more than half of the world’s commercial seed market, and the top 10 control three-fourths...

But the amount of land devoted to those seeds has exploded. Today in Minnesota, about 24,000 square miles — a third of the state — are devoted to growing either corn or soybeans...

Dozens of studies have now found that low doses of neonicotinoids may not kill bees outright, but can cripple their highly sophisticated navigational and communication skills, and hamper a queen’s reproduction. Scientists have also warned that crops take up only a small portion of the insecticide, leaving the rest behind in the soil. If the toxins spread from fields into streams and wetlands, they may ripple through the food system...

But from where Ehrhardt sits, between the big seed companies and the end of their pipeline at the farm, it appears that the fate of pollinators in rural Minnesota will come down to demand, markets and economics. He sells all kinds of seeds to all kinds of farmers. He’s keenly aware of the market for organics and the rising demand among farmers for non-GMO seeds — the fastest growing segment of his seed business. Both of those types of crops command a considerably higher price at the local elevator than the genetically engineered crops.

Farmers, he said, would be happy to grow bee-friendly corn. “But there have to be consumers willing to pay for that.” 
This week they report that the state is considering a ban on neonicotinoids:
Minnesota regulators, for the first time, are considering banning or restricting a controversial class of insecticides that has been linked to honeybee deaths.

The possibility, disclosed this week by the state Department of Agriculture in a revised outline for a study of the chemicals, followed an outpouring of public concern over the dramatic decline in honeybee populations in recent years...

A revised outline published this week states that the range of state action could include “restrictions on or cancellation of products.”..

Horan said the backlash against neonicotinoids was heightened by a recent EPA finding that neonicotinoid seed treatments in soybeans provide little or no overall benefits to soybean production for most farmers.
Reposted from 2014 to add more information:
Neonicotinoids, known for their devastating effects on pollinator populations across the continent, are typically applied to row crops and household lawns. But the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently found evidence of them inside deer in the state's deepest and most remote forests.

The DNR tested 800 deer spleens sent in from hunters over the past two years and found buildup of neonicotinoids in 61% of them, the agency announced Monday.

The wide range of where the chemicals were found "was a surprise to us," said Dave Olfelt, director of the DNR's Fish and Wildlife Division.

More research is needed to determine if insecticide concentrations are high enough to threaten individual deer, said Michelle Carstensen, the DNR's wildlife health program supervisor. But early numbers show that neonicotinoid levels are at or above thresholds known to impact fawn survival, she said...

While the exact levels of neonicotinoids building up in deer still have to be determined, early indications are that they pose no threat to human health, said Jim Kelly, manager of environmental surveillance and assessment at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Safety thresholds of neonicotinoids in crops and beef are between 300 and 500 parts per billion, Kelly said. Minnesota's deer seem to be testing around 10 parts per billion, he said.


  1. I would absolutely buy bee-friendly corn and corn products. Just label them so I can find them.

  2. The problem, like all real-world problems, is not black and white.

    These have become the most commonly used insecticides because they are effective and have a dramatically lower impact on mammals, birds and other parts of the ecology.

    They replaced much heavier and more frequent dosing with nastier stiff.

    Just stop using them? http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/01/neonicotinoid-uk-farmers-rapeseed-crop-bees-pesticide

    It's not that easy.

    Remember that honey bees, which are affected by Colony Collapse Dosorder, are responsible for something like 15% of the pollination of our food crops.

    We do need to continue our research and testing, our quest for the best
    balance we can achieve between our need for high yields and overall low ecological impact


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