The issue of using harmful insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids (or neonics), has long been under scrutiny, especially for its links to the phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder” that is responsible for the recent rapid decline in bee populations that has environmentalists concerned. The issue is so severe that some bee populations dropped an alarming 44 percent in 2015, some pollinating bees were added to the Endangered Species List for the first time in 2016, and one in four bee species are at risk of extinction. Bees are fast-moving pollinators responsible for much of the produce and grain production in the world, and without them, the entire planet would suffer. And now a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research shows that the use of neonicotinoids is not only bad for the global ecosystem, but it does not help with profits for farmers.
Since 2014, conventional corn farmers in the U.S. have been spending more on producing corn than they are earning in selling it. These farmers rely on seed distributors who often sell seeds that are already treated with insecticides. It is estimated that somewhere between 70 and nearly 100 percent of corn seed is treated with neonicotinoids, but this new study shows that only about one percent of corn acres actually suffer because of soil pests (with the exception being fields with factors that predispose crops to yield loss, like poor drainage.)
The study concluded, “A review of the current literature on neonicotinoids and fipronil shows these systemic insecticides have a role in protecting certain crops against the damaging attacks of some soil pest[s] such as wireworms and root worms and of sucking pests, in particular aphids, leafhoppers, thrips, mealybugs, and scale insects, as well as internal grubs that can only be reached by chemicals translocated within the plant. However, their efficacy does not guarantee an increase of yield of the crops they are protecting, particularly in pollinated crops. This is not unusual, as a recent study in France demonstrated that insecticide usage hardly accounts for any yield benefit in arable crops (Lechenet et al. 2017), mostly because plants compensate for the small damage that insects inflict them while the risk of a pest outbreak is small on a year-to-year basis.“
To read the entirety of the study’s report, go here.
By purchasing organic products you can help do your part to offset the damaging effects of neonicotinoids and support farmers who are trying to make a change. And remember to share this with your network as a reminder that choosing organic is better for both our health and for the environment.
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