Originally published September 23 2015
Total agrochemical domination: Nearly 100% of corn grown in America is doused with bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Nearly all of the corn grown in the United States has been treated with a class of pesticides linked to the collapse of honeybees, other pollinators and perhaps entire ecosystems.
This means that bees foraging anywhere near a cornfield are likely being exposed to toxins that have been shown to damage their nervous and immune systems.
According to panna.org, the treated cornfields are causing the concerning bee die-off. They write, "Beekeepers from Minnesota to Ohio to Canada report large losses after their hives forage near treated cornfields."
"Honey bees are caught in the crossfire," said Steve Ellis, owner of Old Mill Honey Co. "Honey bees, like mine, are subjected to increasingly toxic load of pesticides in corn fields. It's time to rethink the use of neonicotinoids and provide farmers with better options that allow all of us to prosper."
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Turning food into poisonNeonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that are applied to seeds and eventually get taken up into all of the tissues of the growing plant. They also leach into the soil, where they remain for years, killing critical invertebrates and reducing soil health.
Adoption of the pesticides was rapid in the United States, increasing fivefold over the course of just a few years in the 1990s. This corresponded with the time period in which colony collapse disorder was first reported in this country.
From the perspective of pollinators, corn is a particularly problematic crop to treat with neonicotinoids. In part this is because neonicotinoid treatment makes seeds too sticky to come out of corn planting machines. In response, farmers have taken to mixing the seeds with talcum powder. An unfortunate side effect of this practice is the creation of clouds of neonicotinoid-laced talc dust at planting time. These clouds drift beyond the corn fields themselves into the neighboring fields of agricultural or wild crops that honeybees and other pollinators forage on.
To make matters worse, honeybees in North America rely on corn pollen in particular as a high-protein food, and they are known to disproportionately collect it and stockpile it in their hives.
"We know that these insecticides are highly toxic to bees; we found them in each sample of dead and dying bees," said bee researcher Dr. Christian Krupke of Purdue University. "Whatever was on the seed was being exhausted into the environment. This material is so concentrated that even small amounts landing on flowering plants around a field can kill foragers or be transported to the hive in contaminated pollen."
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Beekeepers and farmers take actionAs evidence of these problems has emerged, concerned farmers such as those involved in the Working Landscapes Certificate program have sought to plant corn seeds that are not laced with neonicotinoids. To their shock, they learned that it is almost impossible to purchase non-treated seeds from any major seed company.
As of 2012, 94 percent of all U.S. corn acreage was planted with neonicotinoid-treated seed. That's an area larger than the state of Minnesota.
"Corn farmers engaged in Working Landscapes are concerned about pollinators, and are becoming increasingly aware of the impacts of neonicotinoids on bee populations," said Jim Kleinschmit of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. "The problem is that there isn't much supply of bee-friendly seeds. The fact is, you just can't find high-yield, untreated corn seed anymore because of seed industry consolidation."
In addition to pressuring seed companies to provide untreated seeds, beekeepers are taking other forms of action to stem the chemical violence of neonicotinoids. In September 2014, Canadian beekeepers filed a lawsuit against neonicotinoid manufacturers Bayer and Syngenta, seeking $400 million in damages for the effects of the chemicals on their businesses.
The farmers accuse the companies of negligence in designing, promoting and selling the pesticides.
"The goal is to stop the use of the neonicotinoids to stop the harm to the bees and the beekeepers," said Paula Lombardi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
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