Date of this Version
Neonicotinoid insecticides are the most important new insecticide class introduced in the past 40 years. They are the number one selling insecticide in the world, and are used on over 90% of the corn produced in the U.S. However, neonicotinoids could very likely be causing widespread and severe impairment to bee colonies, and possibly contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). This is problematic since bees, and honey bees in particular, are the single most important pollinator for global agriculture. Pollination services contribute to one of every three mouthfuls of food consumed (Xerces Society, 2011). Direct pollination services were recently valued in a Cornell University study to be worth 16 billion dollars a year in U.S. farm income (Calderone, 2012). As more is learned about the nature of systemic neonicotinoids and their adverse effects on beneficial pollinators, a potential conflict between crop protection and pollinator conservation becomes clear, posing a dilemma between food production required to feed a growing global population and the risk of widespread colony collapses. The scientific community has been examining the phenomenon of CCD, and anecdotal links between the bee losses and the application of neonicotinoid insecticides, since it was first noticed by French beekeepers in 1994 and then in the U.S. in 2006. While previous studies failed to demonstrate links to CCD, a new generation of field-realistic studies has chronicled the synergistic and sublethal effects of neonicotinoids on individual bees and colonies over longerterm exposure using real-world foraging conditions. Recent studies strongly support the link between neonicotinoids and CCD (Henry et al., 2012; Whitehorn et al., 2012; Gill, Ramos-Rodriguez, and Raine, 2012; Lu et al., 2012; Tapparo et al., 2012; Krupke et al., 2012). However, independent researchers such as James Cresswell, Jim Frazier, and USDA scientist Jeffrey Pettis (Cresswell, 2011; Cresswell, Desneux, and vanEngelsdorp, 2012; Frazier et al., 2011; Frazier 2012; Grist.org) along with farming and crop protection interests and the producers of the neonicotinoid products all caution that there is not yet enough evidence to draw definitive conclusions, and that there are a variety of causal factors behind CCD. Can these pesticides continue to be used safely in the U.S. or do their risks to pollinators outweigh their benefits to humans and animals?
Date Posted: 29 March 2013