Neonicotinoids to be banned in American Northwest and Hawaii in effort to save pollinators
“We made the decision because we are concerned over the global decline in all pollinators — bees and butterflies,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Miel Corbett.
By 2016, the agency plans to have completely phased out neonicotinoids, or neonics, for agricultural use throughout Region 1, or the Pacific Northwest. Parts of Region 1 include Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon and Washington (click here for map).
“The Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity had petitioned Fish and Wildlife to ban neonicotinoids on wildlife refuges nationwide, but agency spokeswoman Miel Corbett said the decision was made independently,” reported SFGate.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they “inadvertently” use neonics on agricultural crops that are fed to wildlife.
Neonicotinoid family hurts insects, birds and other animals
Seven chemicals make up the neonicotinoid family, and all are known to be toxic to the environment, creating a host of problems for species unfortunate enough to come into contact with the insecticides.
“Neonics are toxic by creating a non-reversible binding action in the nervous system of the invertebrate or vertebrate,” according to a report by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
The poison is distributed systematically throughout the plant’s entire vascular system and is often applied as a seed coating prior to planting corn and soybeans.
Further documents by the agency confirm their beliefs that neonicotinoids are creating a significant decline in not just bee populations but a variety of pollinator insects.
Scientist say bees and other pollinators are exposed to neonics through pollen, water droplets on the surface of plants and dust that is released into the air when coated seeds are planted.
“These effects cause significant problems for the health of individual bees, as well as the overall health of bee colonies,” said the agency.
Other studies have found neonics to be affecting earthworms, beetles, flies and aquatic invertebrates, and if consumed, can be fatal for birds and mammals.
In their announcement earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that neonics pose a dangerous threat to entire ecosystems and remain persistent in the environment for extended periods of time.
It only takes 10 nanograms per liter of water for some of the chemicals in the neonic family to kill aquatic life. Bioaccumulation in soils also has some researchers concerned.
The agency admitted that prophylactic seed treatments don’t always fulfill the promise of providing more yield, and in turn are “thereby challenging the true agronomic value of these treatments where the environmental costs may outweigh the agricultural benefits.”
Month of July proves to be groundbreaking for neonic research
The United States Department of Interior made the announcement to ban the insecticide just 20 days before the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released findings about neonicotinoid pollution in rivers and streams throughout the Midwest.
USGS researchers tested nine rivers in the Midwest during last year’s growing season and found high concentrations of neonics in 100 percent of their water samples.
The Mississippi and Missouri Rivers were among the nine rivers and streams tested by the researchers; plus, most of the rivers that drain from Iowa and parts of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin were studied, all states with the highest levels of neonicotinoids in the nation.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intends to reduce pesticide drift to prevent contamination in nearby fields. The agency said no residue seeds can be left above ground on refuge lands for birds and other animals to eat, and random field spot checks will be performed at the time of planting to ensure compliance.
The refuge must also maintain a minimum of a 50-foot treatment buffer to water on all non-erodible fields, and a 100-foot treatment buffer to water on all erodible fields that use neonicotinoid-treated seeds.