Neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been widely blamed for colony collapse disorder among bees, are also killing butterflies, worms, fish and birds—read on for even more shocking effects
The same neurotoxic pesticides that have been implicated in global bee collapse are also harming butterflies, worms, fish and birds, according to a scientific review issued Tuesday that called for tighter regulation to limit their use. This comes in the same week that a potential link between pesticide exposure during pregnancy and autism was discovered.
An international panel of 29 scientists found “clear evidence of harm” from the use of two pesticides, neonicotinoids and fipronil, after analyzing two decades of reports on the subject. The evidence has been “sufficient enough to trigger regulatory action.”
“We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment,” said Jean-Marc Bontamin of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, who co-authored the report.
The study, entitled Worldwide Integrated Assessment, was carried out by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, who advise the global watchdog on species loss, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The nerve-targeting insecticides, known as neonics, were “imperiling the pollinators, habitat engineers and natural pest controllers at the heart of a functioning ecosystem.”
The effects of neonics can be instant and lethal, or chronic. Exposure can impair smell in some species, as well as curb procreation, reduce foraging, cause flight difficulties and increase susceptibility to disease.
Neonics are able to persist in the soil for more than a thousand days, and in woody plants for over a year. The compounds into which they break down are potentially more dangerous than the orginal active ingredients.
The pesticides have been used for pest management in farming, as well as pet flea control. But they stand accused in the recent decline of bees, known as colony collapse disorder, in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Bees are crucial pollinators of human food crops—but they’re not the only species affected by the pesticides. The study says that these pesticides, absorbed by plants, are also harming other insect pollinators, birds and fish as they leach into the soil and water.
The most affected specials are terrestrial invertebrates like earthworms, which are crucial soil-enrichers.
Bees and butterflies were next on the list of species endangered by the pesticides. They are followed by aquatic invertebrates like freshwater snails and water fleas. Next are birds, and finally fish, amphibians and certain microbes.
“The combination of their wide scale use and inherent properties has resulted in widespread contamination of agricultural soils, freshwater resources, wetlands, non-target vegetation, estuarine and coastal marine systems,” the authors wrote.
“This means that many organisms inhabiting these habitats are being repeatedly and chronically exposed to effective concentrations of these insecticides.”
It turns out pesticides aren’t good for pregnant women, either. The news about the danger pesticides cause to insect pollinators comes in the same week that researchers at the University of California, Davis discovered a potential link between industrial pesticides and autism during pregnancy.
The UC Davis study examined 970 cases, and found that children whose mothers lived less than one mile from fields treated with organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy were nearly 60 percent more likely to have autism than children whose mothers did not live in the vicinity of those fields.
Global policy makers seem to actually be paying attention to the dangers of industrial pesticides. Europe already has a two-year moratorium against the neonicotinoid variety of pesticide, which prohibits their use on flowering crops, and last week President Obama announced the creation of a pollinator health task force which will examine the impact of pesticide exposure on bee and other insect populations.
(For more, check out the Ultraculture book Monsanto vs. the World: The Monsanto Protection Act, GMOs and Our Genetically Modified Future.)