Editorial Recap: Scary Studies Piling Up on Neonicotinoid Pesticides
Posted at 8:50 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Neonicotinoids began to dominate the agricultural market in the early 2000s after being branded as the “perfect” insecticide.
Indeed, the compound based on synthetic nicotine, acts as a neurotoxin on insects and their toxicity makes it possible to use fewer active ingredients. Compared to older classes of insecticides, they also appeared to have relatively low toxicity to vertebrates, especially mammals.
Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides on the planet and can be sprayed, applied to the soil or used to coat the seeds of corn, soybeans and other crops. They are also found in lawn chemicals and even flea and tick collars for pets.
But they have long been known to be devastating to bees and other pollinators, leading the European Union and some states to ban or severely restrict their use.
Now, as more and more studies are being conducted on them, neonicotinoids are sounding the alarm about the dangers to far more than pollinator populations.
Minnesota biologists recently announced that pesticides were found in 94% of deer spleens taken from the road and sent in by hunters last fall. And two-thirds of those deer had higher concentrations of the chemicals than a threshold found to potentially reduce fawn survival and cause bone and genital deformities in a study of captive deer.
A South Dakota researcher found that fawns with higher levels of neonicotinoids in their spleens were much more likely to die than those with lower levels. Similar problems have been found in pheasants.
Other researchers have found that neonicotinoids move from treated plants to pollinators and from plants to pests and then to natural enemies. Alarming studies show that their transmission through food chains poses a significant risk to biodiversity and food webs.
A recent finalized report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that the three most commonly used neonicotinoids are likely to negatively impact nearly three-quarters of species listed as threatened in the United States.
Some farmers are beginning to move away from neonicotinoids, primarily because of cost versus effectiveness.
As research continues, it is clear that the deadly consequences of neonicotinoids for pollinators and likely problems for a wide variety of other plants and animals mean that pesticide use must be drastically reduced.
— Mankato Free Press, September 13