A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.
Monday, November 3, 2014
More bad news for bees: The new "F" word
Have you heard of flupyradifurone? Probably not, unless you work for
the federal government agency poised to approve this new pesticide for
use in Canada. But take note: This new "F" word is bad news for bees.
Flupyradifurone is an insect-killing systemic pesticide similar to the
controversial neonicotinoid, or neonic, family of bee-killing
chemicals. When applied to seeds or soil, it's absorbed by plant roots
and travels to leaves, flowers, pollen and nectar, making the plant
potentially toxic to insects.
This past summer, the international Task Force on Systemic
800 scientific studies and concluded that systemic pesticides like
neonics are harming bees, butterflies, birds and worms and should be
phased out globally. The European Union banned three
neonics<http://go.davidsuzuki.org/Q0YU06D0V804O002N00F4g0> for "crops
attractive to bees", but the European Environment Agency says that's
just a starting point, and recommends regulators look at similar
pesticides and take into account potential harmful effects on aquatic
invertebrates, birds and other insects. The EEA also found "mounting
scientific evidence has been systematically suppressed for many years
and early warnings were ignored."
Inexplicably, Canada's Pest Management Regulation Agency has yet to
respond to the Task Force findings and now wants to approve a new
systemic pesticide. What's especially troubling is that, in its
description, the PMRA
flupyradifurone "may pose a risk" to bees, birds, worms, spiders,
small mammals and aquatic bugs, and that it doesn't readily break down
in water, air or sunlight and may carry over to the following growing
season. When it enters streams, rivers and wetlands, "it may persist
for a long time."
Like neonics, flupyradifurone is a nerve poison, acutely toxic to bees
if ingested. As in the past, we don't fully understand the cumulative
effects of the increasing amounts of today's insecticides, pesticides,
fungicides and other chemicals being applied to crops across the
Neonicotinoids are showing up more frequently and in higher
concentrations than the harmful chemicals they replaced. A study last
year found 90 per cent of Saskatchewan prairie potholes contained
residual neonics<http://go.davidsuzuki.org/TH0VY0g020006Da0044ONU0> in
the spring, before farmers planted their fields. Research from the
U.S. Midwest found neonics in all 79 samples taken from nine
results have been found in wetlands, streams and rivers in the
southwest U.S., Georgia and California.
It's not even clear whether the widespread use of neonic seed
treatments increases agricultural yields. A recent report from the
U.S. Environmental Protection
soy crop treatments concluded, "these seed treatments provide little
or no overall benefits to soybean production in most situations.
Published data indicate that in most cases there is no difference in
soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus
not receiving any insect control treatment."
The European Environment Agency also found a 2004 ban on neonicotinoid
chemicals by France for sunflower and maize crops hasn't negatively
affected productivity. In fact, yields were higher in 2007 than they'd
been in a decade.
You'd think we'd learn from past experience with persistent and
bioaccumulative pesticides like DDT and
and the more recent research on neonicotinoids. DDT was widely used
until Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring drew attention to its
negative impacts on ecosystems, wildlife and humans. Many, but not
all, organophosphate pesticides have also been pulled from widespread
use because we learned their neurotoxic effects posed serious risks to
humans and wildlife.
Rather than approving new pesticides that may harm pollinators, birds
and other animals, including humans, we need better ways to protect
crops. A recent report, "Alternatives to neonicotinoid insecticides
for pest control<http://go.davidsuzuki.org/r40e0U0Y0DL460V2g00O0N0>",
published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research,
suggests further research and methods including "diversifying crop
rotations, altering the timing of planting, tillage and irrigation,
using less sensitive crops in infested areas, applying biological
control agents," and other lower-risk alternatives.
We need to stop contaminating the environment with neonics and related
systemic pesticides. Approving flupyradifurone would take us in the
wrong direction. Canada's Pest Management Regulation Agency is
accepting comments on flupyradifurone approval until November 3. You
can submit through the
PMRA<http://go.davidsuzuki.org/q2UV0N064M004Y00D0gf00O> or David
Putting bees and ecosystem functioning at risk endangers us all. It's
time to find a better way.
As origionaly published on the Homestead Forum