The neonicotinoids are potent systemic pesticides, because scientifically established, thanks to the complaints of beekeepers, the die-offs of bees and pollinators as well as birds and invertebrates and many other life forms.
For years we are raised doubts about the use of many insecticides and pesticides. Among these neonicotinoids. Let’s see what are the neonicotinoids and what effects they have on bees.
The use of neonicotinoids has dramatic implications for the ecosystem as was witnessed by countless reports and studies.
Before describing the operation, it should be stressed that these are systemic insecticides and specifically explain what is a systemic insecticide.
A systemic insecticide, such as neonicotinoids is a phytosanitary prepared whose active ingredients are absorbed by the roots or leaves, to be transported in the rest of the organs of the plant, for example in nectar and pollen.
The neonicotinoids are a class of systemic pesticides with a specific neurotoxic action, that act on the nervous system (nAChR) of living forms that are in direct contact.
To understand the operation of neonicotinoids we see as systemic insecticides spread in the environment.
After the pesticide dusts seeds the following occurs:
• Semi – Part of the treated seeds are eaten by birds;
• Powder – During sowing the air is contaminated by dust raised during sowing;
• Plants – The pollen and nectar collected by bees is contaminated by systemic active ingredients;
• Water – Insecticides are kept permanently in the water, and contaminate rivers and water supplies.
• Land – The contamination of the soil takes place through the accumulation of molecules, year after year.
The most shocking thing is how these pesticides can be the most used in the world and have been authorized without us being conducted sufficient testing on their impact. Fortunately, today beekeepers, scientists, farmers and critical citizens in Europe and around the world are struggling to ensure that these licensing procedures are radically changed; but the road is long and the opponents are powerful multinationals like Bayer, Syngenta, and BASF.
In this regard has been published the first of seven chapters of Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystem (WIA): a work of more than 800 scientific publications meta-analysis that has set itself the aim of monitoring the ‘impact of systemic pesticides in ecosystems and biodiversity.
Among the key suspects clearly neonicotinoids. The analysis did not overlook anyone, deepening the effects on the species known as the most vulnerable, bees and butterflies on her head, until you get to the indirect effects on vertebrates. The first part, published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research, examines precisely the latter.
This is the most complete work of analysis available at the time in the world, which involved a group of 29 scientists, all members of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, for over four years. The results emerging from this massive literature review leave room for little doubt that neonicotinoids are harmful to bees and other invertebrates. Their effects also are felt on land vertebrates, first of all the birds, and aquatic fauna. They are, in short, a risk to ecosystems.
The neonicotinoids, introduced years ago as a safe alternative to DDT, are a class of insecticides, highly neurotoxic, resulting from nicotine. They can be sprayed on the leaves, put in the soil or in granular form used to treat the seeds. They have caught on so quickly to cover, in 2011, 40% of the global market. Too bad they are soon revealed the highly toxic to bees.
Italy was the first country to suspend the use in 2008 with temporary bans, then renewed at each expiration. The problem is then arrived at the European Commission, which, among protests and tortured debate, asked EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, to express themselves on the risks related to the use of three particular neonicotinoids: clothianidin, imidacloprid and tiamethoxam.
Subsequently, in January 2013, EFSA published its views. The pesticides in question cause acute and chronic effects on survival and development of bee colonies. In 2013, finally, also the European commission are prohibited from using for two years of clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid on crops that attract bees, including the protests of those who consider the decree too permissive and those who wanted a decision different. A few months later, it is also banned the use of fipronil, another insecticide with the same systemic effect.
But how could we expect multinational manufacturers and holders of various active ingredients were immediately prodicate (do not make us miss anything) with new products based on neonicotinidi (as Thiacloprid) approved in the Netherlands, France and Italy. Moreover, thiacloprid was not on the list of substances banned by the EU.
The issue has become so pressing and delicate that even the American continent (with a few years delay) the problem also came to the White House.
But to meet the most obvious speeches is obvious (and scientifically proven) that neonicotinoids are a risk to biodiversity.
While the authorities try (not with a few embarrassments and under the pressures of the multinationals) to regulate the use of neonicotinoids, despite the obvious scientific data, the results of the just concluded meta-analysis are many clear. The animal species most vulnerable in absolute the use of these products are the terrestrial invertebrates such as worms, exposed to pesticides through the soil, surface water, air or directly through the plants. Soon to follow are pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies, exposed to extreme levels of contamination via pollen and air. The third place is occupied by the aquatic invertebrates, which are also very sensitive. The solubility in water of neonicotinoids, in fact, is so that they can contaminate surface water and groundwater, going to change the power, mobility and the reproductive capacity of small aquatic invertebrates, such as plankton.
Even some vertebrates, although they are less sensitive, suffering the direct or indirect effects of the use of neonicotinoids. Some species of small birds, such as sparrows, they can eat treated seeds and meet with increased mortality and a low reproduction rate. Reptiles, on the other hand, are faced with a shortage of food (worms and insects). Fish and amphibians are susceptible to high levels of pesticides or prolonged exposure.
This analysis still has to be completed with additional data. There are still more tests and studies mainly on the actual environmental concentration of neonicotinoids and their toxicity in several animal species.
Available data, however, are irrefutable: we are faced with an apocalyptic scenario where the shortsightedness of governments, added to the arrogance of multinationals, could lead the entire planetary ecosystem balance to a point of no return.
The worst thing is that too many ordinary people, including unfortunately many farmers have been convinced that out of intensive agriculture (that, to be where the ecosystem is reduced to a concept similar to an assembly line) there is no possibility of a good income and more to feed the planet.
It’s a lie so devoid of scientific and technical basis that it is hard to understand how we got to this point. It is high time that the consciences of men (politicians, scientists, engineers, farmers, commoners) of good will lay the foundation for conscientious objection.
That objection of conscience that makes us realize that outside the rules of nature there is only death and famine. All other arguments are only human selfishness and short-sightedness.