Neonics Pesticide Replacement Found to be Equally Dangerous to Bees

A chemical touted as a safer replacement for bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) has similar harmful effects, researchers in the U.K. have discovered.

Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides intended to protect crops from pests by blocking receptors in the insects’ brains, paralyzing and killing them. Even small doses of neonics can cause bees to struggle with navigation, hunting for food, reproduction, and their ability to form new colonies.

As a result of neonics’ effects on pollinators, the European Union (EU) banned the outdoor use of 5 neonicotinoid products in April 2018. Canada began phasing them out on August 15, 2018. However, in the United States, neonics are still widely used.

Due to the development of neonicotinoid resistance among some insects, scientists in recent years have turned to sulfoximine as a replacement. This group of insecticides act on the same class receptors in the insect brain but can safely avoid the enzymes that make some insects resistant to neonics.

Sulfoximine has been approved by regulatory bodies in China, Canada, Australia, and the U.K. [2]

Recently, scientists studied the effects of sulfoxaflor – a member of the sulfoximine class of chemicals – on bumblebee colonies and found that it reduced the number of worker bees in the colony and, eventually, the number of offspring the colony produced.

Study author Harry Siviter, from Royal Holloway, University of London, said:

“Our results show that sulfoxaflor can have a negative impact on the reproductive output of bumblebee colonies under certain conditions.”

Sulfoximine was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama Administration. Initially, the rules governing the pesticide’s use were fairly loose, but a court decision vacated the initial approval in favor of more stringent restrictions to protect bees.

It cannot be sprayed on plants that attract bees until they have finished blooming, it is illegal to spray the insecticide on a select number of blooming plants, and it can’t be sprayed on any plants grown for seed.

For the study, researchers exposed bumblebee colonies to doses of sulfoximine similar to those they would be exposed to after the insecticide is applied to crops, and compared their health to those of colonies that were not exposed.

It was clear that the bees had suffered as a result of sulfoximine exposure when individuals from colonies exposed as larvae started to emerge as adults, but fewer worker bees emerged.

Furthermore, 9 weeks after the bumblebees were exposed, exposed colonies produced 54% fewer new queens and males – the only bees that reproduce. The authors wrote in the report that this suggests sulfoximine could significantly impact successful reproduction among bumblebee colonies. [1]

Study author Dr. Ellouise Leadbeater of Royal Holloway, University of London, said:

“Our study highlights that stressors that do not directly kill bees can still have damaging effects further down the line, because the health of the colony depends on the health of its workforce.” [2]

More importantly, the study shows that replacing one toxic insecticide with another is not the answer to protecting crops from pests.

The study is published in the journal Nature.


[1] Science Magazine

[2] EcoWatch

Tobacco Doesn’t Just Kill Smokers; It Kills the Environment

About 90% of all lung cancers are caused by cigarette smoking. Smoking kills 7 million people a year, speeds aging, destroys the heart and cardiovascular system, and leads to asthma and COPD. But cigarettes don’t just wreak havoc on the human body; they also wreak havoc on the environment through deforestation, pollution, and littering. [1] [2]

In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a study detailing the environmental costs of tobacco, adding to the mind-blowing $1.4 trillion in healthcare costs and lost productivity. The report looks at the immediate environmental damage caused by tobacco consumption, as well as “the post-consumption waste and health implications that continue to play out long after the tobacco has been smoked.” [3]

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said:

“Tobacco threatens us all. Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air.” [2]


A few of the main take-aways from the report:

  • There are more than 7,000 toxic chemicals in tobacco waste – some of them cancer-causing – and these substances also pollute the environment.
  • Tobacco smoke has created thousands of tons of human carcinogens, toxicants, and greenhouse gases.
  • Cigarette butts and other tobacco waste account for a huge amount of trash. According to a 2014 study, tobacco waste constitutes more than a third of the refuse collected during coastal cleanups. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of all cigarettes purchased every day wind up tossed in the streets, grass, and water. Too few people “flick their butts” into a trash receptacle. [3]

Tobacco-leaf curing requires burning enormous quantities of wood, which contributes to deforestation. Larger tobacco growers also use coal, which emits carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas implicated in global warning. [4]

Read: The True Cost of Smoking Revealed

As if that’s not disgusting enough, the planet is littered with millions of kilograms of non-biodegradable cigarette butts.

Pollution aside, tobacco is a drain on the world’s resources, including energy and water, and requires the extensive use of harmful chemicals. [2]

The report states:

“From start to finish, the tobacco life cycle is an overwhelmingly polluting and damaging process.” [4]

Mammoth amounts of insecticides, herbicides, GMOs, fungicides, and fumigants are applied to tobacco plants. Many of these products are so harmful to health and the environment that they’ve been banned in some countries.

The WHO is calling on world governments to work toward controlling tobacco pollution by enacting measures such as banning tobacco marketing and advertising, promoting plain product packaging, and making all public spaces and workplaces smoke-free. [3]

World health experts are also urging governments to implement tobacco taxes. It is one of the least-used tobacco control methods, but raising tobacco taxes and prices is remarkably effective, according to Dr. Oleg Chestnov, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General for NCDs and Mental Health.

At the moment, governments rake in about $270 billion in yearly tobacco excise tax revenues. But the WHO says this could increase by more than 50% to bring in an additional $141 billion by simply increasing taxes on packs of cigarettes by $0.80 a pack.

Additionally, the WHO wants to make it mandatory for tobacco companies to supply information on the amount of environmental damage their operations contribute to. At the moment, some large manufacturers do report on their use of environmental resources and waste streams, but ‘the data is limited and opaque.” [4]

The authors wrote:

“All producers should be required to compensate for the environmental harms caused by deforestation, water use, waste, etc. through offsets in order to ultimately reduce the long-term ecological harm their business causes.” [4]

Read: Tobacco Industry Forced to List Ingredients in their Products

Chan said:

“By taking robust tobacco control measures, governments can safeguard their countries’ futures by protecting tobacco users and non-users from these deadly products, generating revenues to fund health and other social services, and saving their environments from the ravages tobacco causes.” [3]


[1] Web MD

[2] CNN

[3] Consumerist

[4] RTT News

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Investigation Brews over Insecticide-Tainted Eggs Distributed Throughout U.K.

Eggs contaminated with a potentially harmful insecticide were imported from Europe and have been distributed throughout the United Kingdom and other countries, according to England’s Food Standards Agency (FSA). [1]

The number of eggs containing the insecticide fipronil, used in flea and tick products, is thought to be very small, thank goodness, but grocers in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, and Switzerland have had to pull millions of eggs from store shelves as a precaution.

It is believed that fipronil was used on chickens in Belgium.

The FSA claims the risk to human health is extremely low.

The agency said:

“The number of eggs involved represents about 0.0001% of the eggs imported into the UK each year.

Our risk assessment, based on all the information available, indicates that as part of a normal healthy diet this low level of potential exposure is unlikely to be a risk to public health and there is no need for consumers to be concerned.”

The FSA said that based on the findings of its investigation so far, the affected eggs are no longer available for purchase.

The contamination was kept a secret for weeks and did not trigger the European Union’s (EU) international food safety alert system, allegedly due to a fraud investigation.

Belgium’s agriculture minister said he had ordered the country’s food safety agency to explain why it waited until July 20, 2017 to inform neighboring countries of the problem, when it was aware of the problem back in June.

A criminal investigation has been launched.

Food security expert, professor Chris Elliott, said:

“The report indicated that it (fipronil) should not be used in any food-producing animal of any description, so the Belgian authorities are following a line of investigation to say that there was illegal use… it was actually some serious fraud that was happening somewhere between Belgium and the Netherlands.

All of the information from the food safety authorities right across Europe is that consuming the eggs is not going to endanger anybody’s health.

I’m confident wherever you are in Europe or in the UK, enjoy your eggs.”

Fipronil is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be moderately toxic to humans. The pesticide can damage the kidneys, liver, and lymph glands, and may cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and eye irritation. [2]

The FSA said on its website:

“The government has already taken action to prevent any risk to UK consumers by adding fipronil to its robust surveillance program in UK farms.

We have no evidence that eggs laid in the UK are contaminated or that fipronil has been used inappropriately in the UK. Eighty-five per cent of the eggs we consume in the UK are laid here.”

Several million hens may need to be killed at 150 companies in Belgium, a Dutch farming company has said. About 300,000 have already been put down. [1]


[1] Sky News

[2] Independent

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Uh Oh: House Passes Bill Nicknamed “Poison Our Waters Act”

On May 24, 2017, the House passed a measure reversing an EPA requirement that those spraying pesticides on or near rivers and lakes file for a permit. Opponents are referring to the legislation as the “Poison Our Waters Act.” The bill’s real name is the “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017.” [1]

The permitting system for the use of pesticides under the Clean Water Act was redundant, according to Rep. Bob Gibbs, a Republican from Ohio, who added that the bill will protect farmers, ranchers, and local pest control agencies from regulatory burdens. He says:

“This is important legislation that fixes a bad court decision requiring a costly, unnecessary, and duplicative permit when cities and municipalities use pesticides already approved and regulated by the EPA for mosquito abatement. It’s just another layer of red tape that diverts resources from their mission of protecting the public from insect-borne diseases.”

Under the act, anyone applying a pesticide approved by the EPA under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act would no longer need to acquire a Clean Water Act “general permit” for their activities.

The Clean Water Act had the biggest impact on the largest-volume applicators. Most of the pesticide applicators can obtain a permit with minimal restrictions on spraying.

According to the group Beyond Pesticides, signing the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act into law would:

  • Undermine federal authority to protect the U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act
  • Allow spraying of toxic chemicals into waterways without local and state oversight
  • Contaminate drinking water sources and harm aquatic life
  • Not reduce claimed burdens to farmers, as there currently are no burdens
Source: U.S. Geological Survey – How pesticides make their way into drinking water in agricultural areas

Beyond Pesticides says that, contrary to the bill’s backers’ claims that the permit requirements place unnecessary burdens on farmers, the reality of the situation is that most pesticide applicators can easily obtain a permit with little restriction, and agricultural activities are exempt from the requirement. [3]

In truth, according to the group, the bill would remove Americans’ right to know what chemicals are entering the nation’s waterways.

Mae Wu, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s health program, said in a statement:

“This bill takes away the public’s right to know about toxic pesticides we may be exposed to. It eliminates the current commonsense requirement that communities should have access to basic information about what’s being sprayed in waters that can pose risks for public health.”

Our Water is Already Contaminated

The environmental group Earthjustice states that nearly 2,000 U.S. waterways do not meet water quality standards because of pesticide contamination. In fact, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report from 2014 revealed pesticide levels continue to threaten aquatic life in many of the nation’s rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas.

The study found pesticides and their breakdown products in U.S. streams more than 90% of the time. Water contaminants, such as atrazine, metolachlor, and simazine are still being detected in streams over 50% of the time. Fipronil is the pesticide most frequently found at levels deemed potentially hazardous to aquatic organisms in urban streams.

Additionally, a 2015 USGS report showed that neonicotinioid insecticides contaminate more than half of urban and agricultural streams across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Read: Pesticides Known to Kill Bees Found in U.S. Drinking Water

Marjorie Mullhall, Earthjustice’s senior legislative counsel, says:

“To get to the bottom of and address this pesticide pollution, we need to know what is causing it?—?but this bill does the exact opposite, making it harder to keep our communities safe and putting people’s health at risk.” [2]

Republicans attempted to use the Zika virus emergency last year as a scare tactic to enact the legislation into through its Zika Vector Control Act, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, says:

“A day after the Trump administration’s budget proposed eviscerating the EPA, the House voted to begin making that vision a reality.

This dangerous loophole would benefit pesticide giants like Dow Chemical and leave the rest of us totally unaware of toxic chemicals going into our rivers and lakes.”

It does indeed appear that the act would benefit pesticide makers and not farmers. Ken Kopocis, EPA’s deputy assistant administrator for water, said at a 2015 congressional hearing that the EPA had not been made aware of any issues associated with the pesticide general permit system. No one had been kept from applying a pesticide in a timely manner.



[2] Think Progress

[3] Beyond Pesticides

U.S. Geological Survey

Storable Food

EPA Delays Rule That Would Help Prevent Pesticide Poisoning

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delayed a safety rule aimed at ensuring that pesticides (which are linked to human health problems) are safely applied by adult agricultural workers. This, just days after 50 farm workers in California were sickened by pesticide poisoning. [1]

The Certification of Pesticide Applications safety rule had been scheduled to go into effect on March, 2017, but the EPA has proposed delaying it until May, 2018. The rule would require that workers be 18 years old to apply atrazine, chlorpyrifos, and other restricted-use pesticides for agricultural use. In addition, the rule would enforce other protections for workers applying pesticides out in the field.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

The public was given less than a week to comment on the EPA’s proposed delay, which falls short of the 30 days federal agencies traditionally give for open comment periods, according to Colin O’Neil, the agriculture policy director at Environmental Working Group (EWG).

“In general, federal agencies normally hold open comment periods ranging from 30 to 60 days and in certain circumstances, when the issue is complex or the rule-making is complex, they extend it up to 180 days. It’s nearly unheard of, and very unprecedented, for agencies to have such short public comment periods.”

O’Neil’s fear: That the move sets a precedent for future public comment solicitations.

“This has an alarming tone for how the EPA under the Trump administration plans to solicit public comments and shows how the brazen disregard for the public’s input on issues important to parents, families, and kids’ health.”

The EPA says that “the agency has determined that a full 30-day comment period is impractical, unnecessary, and contrary to the public interest.”

Pesticide Dangers – Atrazine and Chlorpyrifos

Atrazine is one of the most commonly-applied pesticide in the United States. It’s mainly applied to corn, and is a known hormone disruptor that is linked to decreased fetal development, and increased risk of miscarriage and abdominal defects. It is also a possible carcinogen, according to the Pesticide Action Network.

Chlorpyrifos is similar to atrazine, but is mainly applied to oranges, apples, and other fruits. It attacks the nervous system, and short-term exposure can cause weakness, nausea, and headaches. Exposure to the pesticide over longer periods can lead to neurodevelopmental issues, lower IQ among children, and can act as an endocrine disruptor.

The Obama administration mulled banning chlorpyrifos, but Trump’s EPA has rejected calls to ban it outright, citing a need to “provide regulation certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos.”

The Need for more Research and Safety Protocols

There is currently no minimum age to how old farmworkers must be to apply pesticides, and it’s a downright crime. Research has shown that children who live near pesticides applied to soy – including chlorpyrifos – suffer serious genetic damage. Chlorpyrifos has also been linked to brain disorders in children.

O’Neil said:

“For the first time, EPA was going to make sure that kids and youths are not applying restricted-use pesticides. We felt it was alarming and appalling that the Trump administration would put aside health and safety in further delaying this important rule aimed at protecting farmworkers and young Americans from dangerous pesticides.”

Restricted-use pesticides are defined by the EPA as those with the “potential to cause unreasonable adverse effects to the environment and injury to applicators or bystanders without added restrictions.” [2]

By law, anyone who applies restricted-use pesticides must complete safety training. The proposed rule would have required workers who use the pesticides to be re-trained every 5 years, as well as to “verify the identity of persons seeking certification.”

In early May, more than 50 farmworkers in Bakersfield, California, were sickened when a nearby mandarin orchard was sprayed with a chlorpyrifos-based pesticide. A dozen farmworkers sought medical attention, but the others left before medical personnel and local authorities arrived. Officials believe they may have left because they were undocumented workers. [1]

Jeannie Economos, the project coordinator for Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health at the Farmworker Association of Florida, said:

“We had farmworkers tell us outright that their contractors or their supervisors will tell them ‘if you complain, I’m going to turn you into immigration. Whether they would or they won’t isn’t the point, but it’s enough of an intimidation and threat to the farmworkers to not stand up for their rights.”


[1] Think Progress

[2] Mother Jones

U.S. Geological Survey

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