A recent review of 90 international studies has shown that the toxic impact on bees and other pollinators of agricultural pesticide has doubled in a decade despite a fall in the amount of pesticide used. The reason for this is that the new pesticides contain multiple chemicals. Dr Harry Siviter, from the University of Texas, said “If you have a honeybee colony exposed to one pesticide that kills 10% of the bees and another pesticide that kills another 10%, you would expect for 20% of the bees to be killed,” Dr Siviter said. He continues to explain that this is not the case as the “synergistic effect” of a cocktail of pesticide chemicals would kill 30% to 40% of the bees.
The scientific team of 25 experts from around the world warn that “The current (insect) extinction crisis is deeply worrisome. Yet, what we know is only the tip of the iceberg,” and urge “We know enough to act immediately. Solutions are now available – we must act upon them.” as waiting for better data would risk irreversible damage.
The research is based on the use and toxicity of 380 pesticides applied in the US from 1992 to 2016. The scientists said the same trend of lower volumes but greater toxic impact is likely for many regions in the world. Public data on pesticide use is however not available in the EU, Latin America, China or Russia.
The studies reviewed also measured the impact of other environmental stressors, such as poor nutrition. Wildflower meadows are a key food source for pollinating insects, such as bees. Wildflower habitats are in sharp decline worldwide. For example the UK has removed 97% of its wildflower meadows since 1930.
Bees have an effective immune system supported by a complex and organised defensive response to damaging parasites. Bee colonies that survive mite infestations, without chemical treatment by humans, evolve to eventually develop immunity to the parasites. The exposure to pesticides stunts the evolutionary growth of insects.
Bees are poisoned while flying over fields through pesticide-contaminated dust. They are also poisoned by eating and drinking contaminated pollen, nectar and water. When the toxicity does not kill them outright, it impairs their natural immunity and they are then far more likely to become terminally ill.
Neonicotinoids are active substances used in pesticides, The impact of neonics on bees include compromised immune response, shortened adult life cycles, impaired memory and learning, reduced social communication and disorientation which impair foraging, delayed larval development, disrupted brood cycle and “Gut” microbes leading to malnutrition.
Genetically modified crops were developed with the justification they would reduce the dependency of agriculture on chemical pesticides. The scientists of this report said that their findings contradict this claim. Prof Ralf Schulz, of the University Koblenz and Landau said: “This is obviously not true if you look at toxicity levels (of GM crops).” The research shows that pesticides are still used on GM crops and that the toxic impact of GM crops is the same as that of conventional crops.
Pesticides are one factor that is causing the severe decline in the insect populations. This is a serious matter for humanity as insects pollinate three-quarters of crops. According to a recent UN report, more than 70 of the 100 crops that provide 90 percent of the world’s food rely on bees for pollination. Scientists warn that declining insect populations would have knock-on effects on other animals such as birds that rely on them for food. Lack of public pesticide data in many countries “masks a crucial driver of the global biodiversity decline”.
The key causes of insect losses, according to the scientists, are the destruction of natural habitat for farming and buildings, the intensive use of pesticides, industrial and light pollution, invasive alien species and the changing temperature and weather patterns.
The up to a millionfold increase in the electromagnetic radiation all around people and insects used for wireless communication is another obvious risk that is totally ignored.
It is becoming very apparent that people’s wellbeing and the protection of the natural world was never a priority for health regulatory authorities in all countries. Their decisions betray them to always have been facilitators for industry.
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This article was published in the Senior Times of the Times of Malta on the 20th August 2021