The Severe Danger of “Neonic” Pesticides to Bees

March 28, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


The use of neonicotinoid pesticides (known as “neonics”) is emerging as a key factor in the dying off of pollinators, in particular bees. They’re now the most commonly used class of pesticides in the world, representing one-quarter of the global pesticide market, generating billions of dollars in sales.

Neonics may be sprayed, but often plant seeds are soaked in them so that developing plants pull the pesticides up into all their structures, including into the flowers, pollen and nectar. Virtually all the corn and one-third of soybean crops in the U.S. is planted with seeds treated with at least one neonic pesticide, sometimes along with other toxic compounds.

Neonics were at first hailed as a “breakthrough” because they were less toxic to mammals than insects they were designed to repel. But no real study or thought was devoted to the impact on bees, butterflies and other pollinators that are also insects, as well the persistence of neonics in soil, how they can be spread by dust from fields, and how they leach into groundwater and irrigation sources, streams and lakes.

Now with the bee crisis, Bayer and other big companies are funding studies to “prove” that neonics are safe in the amounts used. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), EPA and some non-governmental organizations have for years backed the line that there isn’t enough scientific evidence that neonics are harmful.

Yes, more study is needed to fully understand the collapse of pollinators and how to prevent it. But the truth is that a mountain of scientific studies have already proven that neonics are harmful to bees. They may not be immediately harmful (unless they are present in large doses), but they cause sub-lethal harm to bees that builds up over time and can damage whole colonies. Several scientific review studies by independent scientists reviewing the scientific literature on testing of neonics have concluded that these pesticides are very harmful to bees and likely other pollinators of all kinds. They can impair the bees’ ability to forage for food, the development of their young, memory and learning, and their central nervous systems and make them more susceptible to disease. Neonics—which last a long time in plants, soil and water—have been shown in studies to reduce numbers of wild bees, restrict the growth of bumblebee colonies and undermine their reproduction. Much of this data correlates with what has been observed in bee disappearances and hive and colony loss. The evidence supports the hypothesis that these pesticides build up over time to undermine and eventually—in connection with other causes and toxic substances—can kill off whole hives and colonies of both honeybees and wild bees. They are also most likely harming many other pollinators.

With all the science available on neonics, the EPA and USDA have consistently approved and upheld the use of these dangerous toxic chemicals. They’ve tried to cover up the scientific evidence pointing to the danger. They have relied on studies done by the very companies that profit off this. They have refused to take action even as the danger has been pointed out by beekeepers, environmentalists, and science. They continue to downplay the likely role of neonics in causing pollinator declines and call for “more study” as pollinators face extinction. Now, as more outcry is building—just as with the poisoning of people in Flint and the Porter Ranch gas disaster—the EPA and government authorities are taking measures to try to contain and cover up the crisis, while the destruction by the system grinds on.

The EPA has finally admitted that one type of neonic, Imidacloprid, poses a risk to honeybees, but they have said nothing about how it damages wild bees. EPA and the Obama administration has only finally said that neonics will not be sprayed when honey bees are actively brought together to pollinate fields (a move to protect U.S. agribusiness)—but nothing is done to ban these toxic substances completely.


Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

REVOLUTION AND RELIGION The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion, A Dialogue Between Cornel West & Bob Avakian
BA Speaks: Revolution Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live
BAsics from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian
Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
WHAT HUMANITY NEEDS Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism
You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation Its History and Our Future Interview with Raymond Lotta
The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need