Pesticides are getting a bad rap these days and for good reason. One of the latest studies out of the UK shows that even at low levels, pesticides adversely affect our bees and other wildlife. Plus, there’s our own health to worry about. Glyphosate (a.k.a. Monsanto’s Roundup®) is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and hundreds of lawsuits alleging Roundup weed killer causes cancer cleared a big hurdle when a federal judge ruled that cancer victims and their families could present expert testimony linking the herbicide to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Neonicotinoids (aka neonics) are one of the most common pesticides used in agriculture and are also used extensively by home and garden centers. Did you know that many “bee-friendly” garden plants have been pre-treated with these bee-killing pesticides? Exposure to neonics can kill bees directly and also makes them more susceptible to other impacts like pests, diseases, loss of habitat, and a changing climate.
Glyphosate Is Wiping Out MilkweedIn the United States, glyphosate is wiping out milkweed, which monarch butterflies rely on as the only food for their young. Use of glyphosate has increased dramatically in the past two decades since Monsanto launched its genetically engineered Roundup®-Ready corn, soy, canola, and cotton. After reviewing more than 10 years of research on how pesticides impact bees, Royal Holloway, University of London came out with a study showing that even low doses commonly used in agriculture hurt the bees’ learning and memory. The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, found the bees’ ability to remember floral scents were harmed even by pesticides not covered by Europe’s recent ban on neonicotinoids. Ohio State University entomologist Reed Johnson, who was not involved in the study, told Popular Science that the question for bee advocates is, “Can pesticides ever be used safely around bees?” This study “suggests that the answer is ‘no,’” he wrote in an email. Europe Is Getting it Right by Banning Neocnicotinoids Recently, most of Europe has implemented a ban on neonicotinoid insecticides. Neonicotinoids (neonics) are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine. When first introduced, neonicotinoids were thought to have low toxicity to many insects, but recent research has suggested potential toxicity to honey bees and other beneficial insects even with low levels of contact and even from non-neonicotinoids. Look at How These Insecticides Are Used in the U.S. Since 2013 neonicotinoids have been used In the U.S. on about 95 percent of corn and canola crops, the majority of cotton, sorghum, and sugar beets, and about half of all soybeans. They have been used on most fruit and vegetables, including apples, cherries, peaches, oranges, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and potatoes, to cereal grains, rice, nuts, and wine grapes. Imidacloprid is possibly the most widely used insecticide, both within the neonicotinoids and in the worldwide market. Glyphosate, Found in Roundup, Impacts Our Health A recent global glyphosate pilot study conducted by an international team of researchers finds that exposure to the herbicide glyphosate results in adverse health effects at levels below those regulators deem “safe” or acceptable. The study found that doses of either glyphosate or Roundup considered “safe” by EPA produce genotoxicity, alterations in sexual development, and changes in the intestinal microbiome. Prior to this study being released, glyphosate has been linked to cancer by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and it’s listed on California’s Prop 65 (“chemicals known to cause cancer”) list. In a story published on Beyond Pesticides, they reported that the researchers in this study are aiming to provide a truly independent, comprehensive evaluation of the risks posed by glyphosate-based herbicides. How Do We Protect Our Children? According to the Midwest Pesticide Action Center, children are especially vulnerable to the health effects of pesticides. They face daily exposure to these toxic chemicals where they live, learn and play, at a time when their bodies are most susceptible to damage.
- Per pound, children eat over three times the food, drink two times the water, and breathe over two times as much air as adults. This means that in relation to their size, children receive higher doses of toxins like pesticides just from breathing air and consuming food and water.
- The National Academy of Sciences landmark report titled, “Pesticides and the Diets of Infants and Children,” estimates that 50 percent of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs during the first five years of life.
- A precautionary approach to use of toxic chemicals –when in doubt, throw it out;
- Organic land management practices, which create healthy environments and playing fields by building healthy soils;
- Techniques not reliant on pesticides;
- Limiting chemical use to an allowed list of organic-compatible fertilizers and pest control materials; and
- An organic land management policy that protects children, families, and the local ecology.