“I have written extensively on agriculture and especially pesticides for two reasons. I am convinced that agriculture for millennia was civilization. But since the late 19th century agriculture was forced to industrialize, supposedly to feed the world. Giant farms growing a single crop rang like the dinner bell for countless insect pests. This triggered a chemical war on the farm ", according to an article by Evaggelos Vallianatos *, published in HuffingtonPost, which I bring you today.
Industrialization brought the violent metamorphosis of civilization into a factory. Pesticides became the mainstays of this factory.
Second, my lengthy work for the US Environmental Protection Agency convinced me that pesticides, like nuclear bombs, must be abolished. Its history of war and its effects are simply intolerable.
A beekeeper friend from the UK, Graham White, drew my attention to the work of Professor Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex. Goulson conducted a "Pesticide Audit" of a single rapeseed field and one winter wheat field.
The pesticide audit covered one season, 2012-2013. It revealed that any bee, butterfly, bumblebee, ladybug, earthworm, that feeds on a rapeseed field would be exposed to:
In addition to insect hormone growth regulators.
The harmful effects of this cocktail of poisons are deforming and killing wildlife, although scientists have yet to study the mixtures of so many poisons that work together.
The field of oilseed rape was not unusual. Most UK and US growers are advised to use the same aerosol cocktail. In the UK, more than 8,000,000 hectares of arable crops each year follow this chemical recipe.
Professor Goulson says he found the evidence from his audit "astonishing." I found it scandalous.
Professor Goulson looks at agriculture through the eyes of pollinators, bees, and bumblebees. In fact, he is the UK's preeminent bumblebee scientist.
Goulson focused on rapeseed because when it blooms it becomes a food store for honey bees.
He explains: “Rapeseed is sown in late summer with a seed dressing containing the insecticide thiamethoxam. This is a systemic neonicotinoid, with a very high toxicity to bees. "
“We know that the plant absorbs it and that detectable levels will be in the nectar and pollen collected by the bees the following spring.
In November, despite the supposed protection of the neonicotinoid, the crop is sprayed with another insecticide, the charming name 'Gandalf'.
“What harm could the wise old sage do? Gandalf contains beta-cyfluthrin, a pyrethroid. Pyrethroids are highly toxic to bees and other insects, but there should be no bees in November, so that's probably fine. The following May, when it is flowering, the crop is sprayed with another pyrethroid, alpha-cypermethrin.
“Less than three weeks later, the crop is bombarded with three more pyrethroids, all mixed up, a real belt and braces approach.
Why use one when three will? The crop is still blooming at this point (it was a late year), and would be covered in forage bumblebees and other pollinators. “In between, the crop is also treated with a barrage of herbicides, fungicides, molluscicides and fertilizers: 22 different chemicals in all. Most of these may have little toxicity to bees on their own, but some, like a group of fungicides (the DMI fungicides), are known to act synergistically with neonicotinoids and pyrethroids, making insecticides much more toxic to bees. On the final application date, when the crop is in bloom, one of these fungicides (prothioconazole) is added to the tank mix with the three pyrethroids.
Any bee feed will be simultaneously exposed to all three pyrethroids, thiamethoxam in nectar and pollen, and a fungicide that makes these insecticides more toxic. "We don't know what impact all of this really has on them." Safety tests only expose test insects to only one chemical at a time, usually for only 2 days, but in reality they are chronically exposed to multiple pesticides throughout their lives.
The fact that we still have bees on farmland suggests that they must be quite tough. More generally, we don't know what impact all of this has on other pollinators or wildlife in general. The industry would tell us that everything is fine. They would also tell us (and the farmers they advise) that all of these applications are vitally important parts of crop production, and that without them food production would collapse. I have my doubts. Safety tests only expose test insects to only one chemical at a time, usually for only 2 days, but in reality they are chronically exposed to multiple pesticides throughout their lives. The fact that we still have bees on farmland suggests that they must be quite tough.
More generally, we don't know what impact all of this has on other pollinators or wildlife in general. The fact that we still have bees on farmland suggests that they must be quite tough. I have my doubts.
“Is this how we really want to see the field run?
“Do we really want to eat food produced this way?
"Do we really believe that ANY insect, soil biota, bird or mammal can survive this chemical barrier, year after year after year?"
My answer is no. Goulson is right. Pesticide mixtures are deadly to pollinators and other wildlife, especially when the same barrage of chemicals hits crops year after year after year. Pesticides do not belong in the field or in food. You would not like to feed your children this sprinkled food.
The chemical industry, like the tobacco industry, is unlikely to regain its senses. He manipulates politics and science to maintain his empire of poison. As long as it has the support of the rulers of the United Kingdom, America or other countries, pesticides and large industrialized farms will reign supreme; food and drinking water will be contaminated and wildlife will be poisoned.
There are probably many scientists like Goulson who know why pesticides are killing wildlife and rendering rural England and rural America unsuitable for human habitation and food production. These scientists should talk to their colleagues, including doctors, and together they should say enough is enough. Your letters should reach UN officials, prime ministers, presidents, newspaper editors and politicians.
Beekeepers need to get up to save their bees and the natural world. They have seen the decline or destruction of their livelihoods. They probably know more about the terrible neonicotinoids and other chemicals that poison bees and insects. Take that information and knowledge to the public square. Work with organic farmers, cooks, teachers and environmentalists to stop the next dark age of neurotoxins and silence.
* Historian and environmental strategist
Educated in zoology and history at the University of Illinois, he received a bachelor's degree in zoology and a master's degree in medieval Greek history. He earned a doctorate in European-Greek history from the University of Wisconsin. He did postdoctoral studies in the history of science at Harvard. He worked on Capitol Hill for 2 years and at the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years. He is the author of hundreds of articles and 6 books, including "Poison Spring," with Mckay Jenkings.
By Graciela Vizcay Gomez