The EU bans neonics. What will the US do?

You may have heard the news yesterday that the EU has voted to ban neonics (neonicotinoids) in Europe, putting a more permanent stamp on the temporary ban that had been in place since 2013. Meanwhile, in the US, the use of neonics has increased to a point where a large percentage of several major crops, including corn, soy, and cotton, is treated nationwide. Choosing organic or pesticide-free veggies and products is the only clear way to avoid neonics – and avoiding meat of course (as pointed out by Paula in the comments section) since most animals are reared on intensively-grown crops such as corn.

The fact that the majority of the corn and soy grown in the US is treated with neonics tells you something about where the agrochemical industry would like to take us. It’s not just a case of using it here and there at times where it might be needed, but to use it as default. It would be like all of us taking antibiotics all the time just in case we fall ill. (Yes, an ironic example, considering the problem of antibiotic overuse in the intensive meat industry.) The key question is this: Is there solid evidence that neonics are harmful to bees?

Evaluation of evidence that neonics are harmful to bees

Last year I spent a couple of months, full time, researching the evidence for and against neonics being harmful to bees.

An image of a bee foraging on a sunflower with numbers showing that the estimated weekly intake of the neonic pesticide imidacloprid is in the range of the lethal dose.

In the first post, I took a look at the basic data (including data published by Bayer) on the lethal dose of neonics versus concentrations found in pollen and nectar.

Part 2 evaluates a research paper that’s often referenced as evidence that neonics are safe for bees – but the data in the paper actually shows the exact opposite! It looks like the conclusion was written by someone who ignored the data and was driven by an agenda. I discovered that the lead author of that paper failed to disclose that he has been funded by Syngenta and other companies that sell neonics. I notified the journal (PLOS one) of this and they agreed and have issued a correction.

Part 3 looks at the impact of other pesticides on bees and at reports that two USDA scientists were allegedly “punished” for speaking out against neonics. This final part also looks at actions that you can take as a consumer in countries like the US where neonics are heavily used.

I evaluated the evidence objectively and, by the end, I was completely convinced that neonics are harmful to bees. I’m emphasizing the fact that I was impartial because objectivity is essential to tackling the environmental issues that we face, and society is currently in short supply of this trait. 

The industry is working overtime to cast doubt on the evidence, and the current US administration is… well, you know. So please take a look and share it if you agree!

11 thoughts on “The EU bans neonics. What will the US do?

  1. Great article. Amazing how Europe is so often ahead of us on environmental issues. One point of contention: you said, “choosing organic or pesticide-free veggies and products is the only clear way to avoid neonics”. Unfortunately, buying organic produce exclusively barely makes a dent in our personal neonic footprint. The greater bulk of corn and soy–which is responsible for the bulk of the neonic use–is not consumed by humans. It is fed to chickens, pigs and cattle. In truth, the best way to avoid neonic use is to avoid consuming meat. Buying organic is just icing on the cake.

    1. Thanks Brigid! The way I see it is that the principal investigator and researchers on the study did a good job with the research itself. But that due to some political shenanigans, the lead author, who is actually a retired professor, was brought in to add his touch to the paper (including the last line of the abstract, which is directly at odds with the data itself). It seems that he specializes in this kind of thing – publications and opinion pieces that are sponsored by the industry. There’s nothing the industry loves more than an “independent” academic who can be bought. Meanwhile, the principal investigator, Dr. Pettis, is actually one of the two USDA scientists that I mentioned were allegedly “punished” for speaking out about neonics. The 3rd part of this jigsaw is a reporter by the name of Jon Entine, who has been investigated for allegedly receiving covert funding from Syngenta and other agrochemical companies. Entine reported on this paper very widely (from the Huff Post to YouTube) with, of course, headlines to the tune of “scientists prove that neonics don’t harm bees.”

Leave a Reply