The question of whether or not synthetic, toxic pesticides are needed to “feed the world” (hint: they’re not) is one that has been hotly debated across the United States since the non-GMO and organic movement began.
While most in the United States seem content to continue supporting large monoculture corporate farms, foods made from toxic pesticides, genetically engineered crops that were warned against by the FDA’s own scientists, and other controversial farming and food production techniques, the truth is that most other nations conduct their agricultural business in a completely different way.
For example in Europe, the majority of countries ban GMOs, and only one GMO crop is allowed to be cultivated within the EU, a type of Monsanto corn grown on small amounts of acreage, mostly in Spain. It was approved in 1998, but its use has been halted by the vast majority of EU countries due to environmental and other concerns.
The three main neonicotinoids, the controversial bee-killing, pesticide-coated seeds, were also banned for use throughout the European Union in 2018 (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam to be exact).
In the U.S., however, they are still widely used, and the amount of seeds coated with these bee-killing pesticides has been growing.
Between 2011 and 2014, the mass of neonicotinoid bee-killing pesticides deployed in each crop doubled, meaning that seed suppliers applied about twice as much insecticide per seed, according to the Alliance of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science Societies.
Also during that timeframe, the “total area treated” number began moving toward 100 percent for corn growers and 50 percent for soybean growers.
All of this poison being added to our seeds, farms and field has made U.S. farms acutely toxic to bees and other pollinators and vulnerable wildlife populations.
And now, a new study has shown that despite all of the widespread death and destruction being caused, these bee-killing poisons may actually have no benefits for farmers after all.
Bee-Killing Seeds Offer No Benefit to “Vast Majority of Farmers”
Every year, farmers in the United States plant at least 80 million acres of soybeans, and as mentioned previously, at least half of the crop comes from trademarked seeds coated in bee-killing neonicotinoid seed coatings.
Farmers are told to spend extra on these poison-coated seeds, in order to produce higher crop yields as a result.
But a new meta-analysis of past research from nearly two dozen scientists at top public agricultural research universities has found that these seeds are not paying off after all.
“The takeaway is that the vast majority of soybean growers in the vast majority of years will not realize a benefit,” from neonicotinoid seeds, the new paper published in the journal Science Reports concluded.
That conclusion was reached by Christian Krupke, an entomologist at Purdue University and one of the paper’s authors.
Soybeans attract few crop-eating insects, a report from Mother Jones noted, and the bug they do attract, the soybean aphid, doesn’t arrive until the middle of the growing season when the neonicotinoid seeds have mostly lost their effectiveness.
The study was conducted using data from nearly 200 soybean fields across 14 states from 2006 to 2017.
They found that the fungicide/neonic, bee-killing pesticide treatments delivered slightly higher yields than the control, but not enough to justify the added cost of the treatments.
In short, “we conclude that prophylactic use of seed treatments (with and without neonicotinoids) are not necessary to maximize yield returns across the region,” the paper states according to the article.
“The results of the paper suggest that soybean farmers are paying up for seed treatments that add little to their bottom lines but subject tens of millions of acres of the American landscape to unnecessary pesticides,” the article concludes.
Bayer (the new owner of Monsanto) and Syngenta, the two main companies that dominate the neonicotinoid pesticide-coated seed market, have disputed results of the study saying that the small benefits are a big deal to farmers.
But considering that the soybean’s companion crop, corn, is almost impossible to find without the toxic seed coatings according to Krupke, it would be “virtually impossible” to do a large, region-wide study assessing whether or not the insecticide increases crop yield enough to justify farmers’ expenses, Mother Jones noted.
“You can’t get the neonic-free corn—it’s not available for purchase,” he said.
Lawsuit Filed Against EPA Over Bee-Killing Pesticides
On Thursday, the environmental law group Earthjustice sued the EPA to cancel its controversial decision to expand the uses of yet another neonic, sulfoxaflor.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of beekeeper Jeff Anderson along with the Pollinator Stewardship Council and the American Beekeeper Federation on behalf of a vital $200 billion industry that has been suffering due to widespread damage from the toxic Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta seeds.
“Honeybees and other pollinators are dying in droves because of insecticides like sulfoxaflor, yet the Trump administration removes restrictions just to please the chemical industry,” Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie said in a press release according to Mother Jones.
“This is illegal and an affront to our food system, economy, and environment.”
The Time is Now to Save the Bees (Here’s How)
Aside from commenting on social media, writing local media outlets, sharing articles like these, and signing petitions (this one from Change.org to ban neonicotinoids for killing the bees is less than 3,000 away from its goal of 200,00 signatures, it’s always important to buy organic food from local farmers.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the farmer’s market, and to vocalize your concerns to farmers no matter how difficult it might be to muster up the courage.
Buying local is especially important because much of the organic food eaten in America is imported, believe it or not. As much as 80 percent comes from other countries like Turkey and China according to a 2017 report from Food Safety News.
It was also revealed this month that only 0.9% of the world farmland is currently organic, despite the ubiquitous nature of the organic movement.
In other words, the time is now to support organic farming more than ever before, regardless of how much you can afford in your budget and regardless of how “inconvenient” it may seem to drive to the farm or farmer’s market on a Sunday morning instead of the grocery store.