Pesticides may harm growing brains


Two neonicotinoid chemicals may affect the developing nervous system in humans, according to the EU.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) proposed that safe levels for exposure be lowered while further research is carried out.

They based their decision on studies that showed the chemicals had an impact on the brains of newborn rats.

bees

One of the pesticides was banned in the EU last April amid concerns over its impact on bee populations.

Neonicotinoids are “systemic” pesticides that make every part of a plant toxic to predators.

They have become very popular across the world over the past two decades as they are considered less harmful to humans and the environment than older chemicals.

But a growing number of research papers have linked the use of these nicotine-like pesticides to a rapid fall in bee numbers.

New levels needed

In April, the European Union introduced a two year moratorium on the use of several types of these chemicals, despite opposition from the UK.

Now EFSA, in a statement, says that it has concerns that two types of neonicotinoids, imidacloprid and acetamiprid, may “affect the developing human nervous system“.

They have proposed that guidance levels for acceptable exposure be lowered while further research is carried out.

The decision has been based on a review of research carried out in rats.

In one study, young rodents exposed to imidacloprid suffered brain shrinkage, weight loss and reduced movement.

In the statement, EFSA said that the two neonicotinoids may “adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with functions such as learning and memory”.

Current guidelines, it went on, “may not be protective enough to protect against developmental neurotoxicity and should be reduced”.

According to EU Commission health spokesman Frederic Vincent, they would now allow the chemical companies involved to comment on the findings.

“In principle, the next step would then be to amend the reference values,” he said, indicating that this would begin next March.

In their findings, EFSA pointed out that the available evidence had limitations but that they believed the health concerns that have been raised are legitimate.

But other experts said the move by EFSA was more of a precaution than anything else.

“The reduction in the reference values in most cases was modest,” said Prof Alan Boobis, from Imperial College London.

“Whilst there is clearly a question mark over the possible effects of these compounds on the developing brain, the conclusions of EFSA do not suggest that exposure of humans to these compounds at the levels that occur normally in food or in the environment is a cause for concern.

Bee brains challenge view that larger brains are superior at understanding conceptual relationships.


The humble honeybee may not seem very intelligent at first sight, but recent research has shown that it possesses a surprising degree of sophistication that is not expected in an insect brain. Specifically, the honeybee can understand conceptual relationships such as “same/different” and “above/below” that rely on relationships between objects rather than simply the physical features of objects.

In primates, this ability to understand conceptual relationships is attributed to neuronal activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). However, honeybees don’t have PFCs. Their brains are so small and lacking in complex brain structures that scientists have traditionally thought that the ability to understand conceptual relationships was beyond them.

Scientists Aurore Avarguès-Weber and Martin Giurfa, both from the University of Toulouse and CNRS in Toulouse, France, have analyzed the implications of the honeybee’s ability to understand conceptual relationships, and have published a paper on the subject in a recent issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.physorg.com/newman/gfx/news/2013/honeybeebrains1.jpg

“One thing that should be clear from this analysis is that, although it is always a matter of debate what is unique to humans and what to animals, these results show at least something that is not,” Giurfa told Phys.org. “While the capacity of conceptual elaboration has been considered (and is still considered) a higher-order capacity proper from primates and other ‘highly-evolved’ animals (the quotes are ironic in this case), the fact that a 950 000-neuron [honeybee] brain can achieve this kind of task shows that the frontier does not reside there.

“The obvious question would be then, what brings as advantage a 100-billion-neuron [human] brain? Obviously several advantages can be cited: language, for instance. Consciousness, whose existence is a matter of debate and of investigation in animals. And the idea that human brains have perhaps replicated redundant and modifiable modules to solve problems that small brains solve with single microcircuits at a smaller scale.”

Reports spark row over bee-bothering insecticides.


Pesticide manufacturer brands risk assessment ‘hurried and inadequate’.

Three reports by Europe’s food-safety body have stoked controversy over the possible links between the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and declining bee populations. One leading insecticide manufacturer has attacked the reports, calling them “hurried and inadequate”.

A number of scientific studies have linked neonicotinoids to adverse effects on bee colonies(see Nature video) but some researchers believe that the drop in bee numbers seen in the United States, Europe and elsewhere is attributable to a combination of factors.

Honey trap

The latest assessments from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy, are based on existing studies of three neonicotinoids: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The reports conclude that these chemicals should be used only on crops that are not attractive to honey bees, so that the insects are not exposed to the insecticides through pollen and nectar. Dust and plant sap contaminated with the chemicals may also pose a risk to bees, says the EFSA.

The EFSA is an independent advisory body, and any ban or restrictions on the use of the three chemicals would require legislation by the European Union (EU) or individual nations.

The work has attracted fierce criticism from John Atkin, chief operating officer at thiamethoxam manufacturer Syngenta, which is based in Basel, Switzerland. In a statement, Atkin said, “It is obvious to us that EFSA has found itself under political pressure to produce a hurried and inadequate risk assessment, which even they acknowledge contains a high level of uncertainty. Their report, compiled in under three months, has not taken account of the comprehensive scientific studies that preceded the launch of neonicotinoids, and many years of extensive monitoring in the field.”

EFSA did not respond to Nature‘s enquiries concerning these allegations.

Data gaps

The European Commission welcomed the EFSA’s assessments. The conclusions “are somewhat concerning when it comes to the potential impact of these particular products”, a commission spokesperson said, but “there are still many shortfalls in the scientific data that were analysed”.

Some EU member states are already scrutinizing neonicotinoids. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has commissioned field studies on the impact of the insecticides on bees. “If it is concluded that restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids are necessary, they will be brought in,” the agency said in a statement.

Bayer, a chemical company based in Leverkusen, Germany, which manufactures imidacloprid and clothianidin, said in a statement that it does not believe that the EFSA’s reports “alter the quality and validity” of previous risk assessments by the EU and member states that have permitted the use of its products. The chemical company pins most of the blame for bee declines on parasitic Varroamites.

Source: nature.com

EPA Slapped with Lawsuit over Ongoing Bee Deaths.


dead-bees

 

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to protect bees from neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a lawsuit against the agency, filed by beekeepers and environmental groups. Said Paul Towers, spokesperson for the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), one of the groups involved in the lawsuit:

“Despite our best efforts to warn the agency about the problems posed by neonicotinoids, the EPA continued to ignore the clear warning signs of an ag system in trouble.”

Lawsuit Maintains the Link Between Neonicotinoids and Bee Die Off Is ‘Crystal Clear’

Neonicotinoid pesticides are a newer class of chemicals that are applied to seeds before planting. This allows the pesticide to be taken up through the plant’s vascular system as it grows, where it is expressed in the pollen and nectar.

These insecticides are highly toxic to bees because they are systemic, water soluble, and pervasive. They get into the soil and groundwater where they can accumulate and remain for many years and present long-term toxicity to the hive as well as to other species, such as songbirds.

Neonicotinoids affect insects’ central nervous systems in ways that are cumulative and irreversible. Even minute amounts can have profound effects over time.

The disappearance of bee colonies began accelerating in the United States shortly after the EPA allowed these new insecticides on the market in the mid-2000s. The lawsuit alleges that the EPA allowed the neonicotinoids to remain on the market despite clear warning signs of a problem.

It also alleges the EPA acted outside of the law by allowing conditional registration of the pesticides, a measure that allows a product to enter the market despite the absence of certain data.

European Food Safety Authority Ruled Neonicotinoids ‘Unacceptable’

The EPA’s continued allowance of neonicotinoids becomes all the more irresponsible in light of recent findings by other government organizations. Earlier this year, for instance, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report that ruled neonicotinoid insecticides are essentially “unacceptable” for many crops.1 The European Commission asked EFSA to assess the risks associated with the use of three common neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – with particular focus on:

  • Their acute and chronic effects on bee colony survival and development
  • Their effects on bee larvae and bee behavior
  • The risks posed by sub-lethal doses of the three chemicals

One of the glaring issues that EFSA came across was a widespread lack of information, with scientists noting that in some cases gaps in data made it impossible to conduct an accurate risk assessment. Still, what they did find was “a number of risks posed to bees” by the three neonicotinoid insecticides. The Authority found that when it comes to neonicotinoid exposure from residues in nectar and pollen in the flowers of treated plants:2

“…only uses on crops not attractive to honeybees were considered acceptable.”

As for exposure from dust produced during the sowing of treated seeds, the Authority ruled “a risk to honeybees was indicated or could not be excluded…” Unfortunately, neonicotinoids have become the fastest growing insecticides in the world. In the US, virtually all genetically engineered Bt corn crops are treated with neonicotinoids.

Serious Risks to Bees Already Established

One of the observed effects of these insecticides is weakening of the bee’s immune system. Forager bees bring pesticide-laden pollen back to the hive, where it’s consumed by all of the bees.

Six months later, their immune systems fail, and they fall prey to secondary, seemingly “natural” bee infections, such as parasites, mites, viruses, fungi and bacteria. Pathogens such as Varroa mites, Nosema, fungal and bacterial infections, and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) are found in large amounts in honeybee hives on the verge of collapse.

Serious honeybee die-offs have been occurring around the world for the past decade but no one knows exactly why the bees are disappearing.

The phenomenon, dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is thought to be caused by a variety of imbalances in the environment, although agricultural practices such as the use of neonicotinoid pesticides are receiving growing attention as more research comes in. As written in the journal Nature:3

Social bee colonies depend on the collective performance of many individual workers. Thus, although field-level pesticide concentrations can have subtle or sublethal effects at the individual level, it is not known whether bee societies can buffer such effects or whether it results in a severe cumulative effect at the colony level. Furthermore, widespread agricultural intensification means that bees are exposed to numerous pesticides when foraging, yet the possible combinatorial effects of pesticide exposure have rarely been investigated.”

This is what the Nature study set out to determine, and it was revealed that bees given access to neonicotinoid and pyrethroid pesticides were adversely affected in numerous ways, including:

  • Fewer adult worker bees emerged from larvae
  • A higher proportion of foragers failed to return to the nest
  • A higher death rate among worker bees
  • An increased likelihood of colony failure

The researchers said:

“Here we show that chronic exposure of bumble bees to two pesticides (neonicotinoid and pyrethroid) at concentrations that could approximate field-level exposure impairs natural foraging behavior and increases worker mortality leading to significant reductions in brood development and colony success.

We found that worker foraging performance, particularly pollen collecting efficiency, was significantly reduced with observed knock-on effects for forager recruitment, worker losses and overall worker productivity. Moreover, we provide evidence that combinatorial exposure to pesticides increases the propensity of colonies to fail.”

Why the Food Supply Could Be Dependent on Urgent Action by the EPA

The EPA acknowledges that “pesticide poisoning” may be one factor leading to colony collapse disorder,4 yet they have been slow to act to protect bees from this threat. The current lawsuit may help spur them toward more urgent action, which is desperately needed as the food supply hangs in the balance.

There are about 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food globally. Of these, 71 are pollinated by bees.5 In the US alone, a full one-third of the food supply depends on pollination from bees. Apple orchards, for instance, require one colony of bees per acre to be adequately pollinated. So if bee colonies continue to be devastated, major food shortages could result.

There is also concern that the pesticides could be impacting other pollinators as well, including bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and others, which could further impact the environment.

Four Steps to Help Protect the Bees

If you would like to learn more about the economic, political and ecological implications of the worldwide disappearance of the honeybee, check out the documentary film Vanishing of the Bees. If you’d like to get involved, here are four actions you can take to help preserve and protect our honeybees:

  1. Support organic farmers and shop at local farmer’s markets as often as possible. You can “vote with your fork” three times a day. (When you buy organic, you are making a statement by saying “no” to GMOs and toxic pesticides!)
  2. Cut the use of toxic chemicals in your house and on your lawn, and use only organic, all-natural forms of pest control.
  3. Better yet, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant a garden or other natural habitat. Lawns offer very little benefit for the environment. Both flower and vegetable gardens provide excellent natural honeybee habitats.
  4. Become an amateur beekeeper. Having a hive in your garden requires only about an hour of your time per week, benefits your local ecosystem, and you can enjoy your own honey!

Source: mercola.com

 

EPA Slapped with Lawsuit over Ongoing Bee Deaths.


dead-bees

 

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to protect bees from neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a lawsuit against the agency, filed by beekeepers and environmental groups. Said Paul Towers, spokesperson for the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), one of the groups involved in the lawsuit:

“Despite our best efforts to warn the agency about the problems posed by neonicotinoids, the EPA continued to ignore the clear warning signs of an ag system in trouble.”

Lawsuit Maintains the Link Between Neonicotinoids and Bee Die Off Is ‘Crystal Clear’

Neonicotinoid pesticides are a newer class of chemicals that are applied to seeds before planting. This allows the pesticide to be taken up through the plant’s vascular system as it grows, where it is expressed in the pollen and nectar.

These insecticides are highly toxic to bees because they are systemic, water soluble, and pervasive. They get into the soil and groundwater where they can accumulate and remain for many years and present long-term toxicity to the hive as well as to other species, such as songbirds.

Neonicotinoids affect insects’ central nervous systems in ways that are cumulative and irreversible. Even minute amounts can have profound effects over time.

The disappearance of bee colonies began accelerating in the United States shortly after the EPA allowed these new insecticides on the market in the mid-2000s. The lawsuit alleges that the EPA allowed the neonicotinoids to remain on the market despite clear warning signs of a problem.

It also alleges the EPA acted outside of the law by allowing conditional registration of the pesticides, a measure that allows a product to enter the market despite the absence of certain data.

European Food Safety Authority Ruled Neonicotinoids ‘Unacceptable’

The EPA’s continued allowance of neonicotinoids becomes all the more irresponsible in light of recent findings by other government organizations. Earlier this year, for instance, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report that ruled neonicotinoid insecticides are essentially “unacceptable” for many crops.1 The European Commission asked EFSA to assess the risks associated with the use of three common neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – with particular focus on:

  • Their acute and chronic effects on bee colony survival and development
  • Their effects on bee larvae and bee behavior
  • The risks posed by sub-lethal doses of the three chemicals

One of the glaring issues that EFSA came across was a widespread lack of information, with scientists noting that in some cases gaps in data made it impossible to conduct an accurate risk assessment. Still, what they did find was “a number of risks posed to bees” by the three neonicotinoid insecticides. The Authority found that when it comes to neonicotinoid exposure from residues in nectar and pollen in the flowers of treated plants:2

“…only uses on crops not attractive to honeybees were considered acceptable.”

As for exposure from dust produced during the sowing of treated seeds, the Authority ruled “a risk to honeybees was indicated or could not be excluded…” Unfortunately, neonicotinoids have become the fastest growing insecticides in the world. In the US, virtually all genetically engineered Bt corn crops are treated with neonicotinoids.

Serious Risks to Bees Already Established

One of the observed effects of these insecticides is weakening of the bee’s immune system. Forager bees bring pesticide-laden pollen back to the hive, where it’s consumed by all of the bees.

Six months later, their immune systems fail, and they fall prey to secondary, seemingly “natural” bee infections, such as parasites, mites, viruses, fungi and bacteria. Pathogens such as Varroa mites, Nosema, fungal and bacterial infections, and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) are found in large amounts in honeybee hives on the verge of collapse.

Serious honeybee die-offs have been occurring around the world for the past decade but no one knows exactly why the bees are disappearing.

The phenomenon, dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is thought to be caused by a variety of imbalances in the environment, although agricultural practices such as the use of neonicotinoid pesticides are receiving growing attention as more research comes in. As written in the journal Nature:3

Social bee colonies depend on the collective performance of many individual workers. Thus, although field-level pesticide concentrations can have subtle or sublethal effects at the individual level, it is not known whether bee societies can buffer such effects or whether it results in a severe cumulative effect at the colony level. Furthermore, widespread agricultural intensification means that bees are exposed to numerous pesticides when foraging, yet the possible combinatorial effects of pesticide exposure have rarely been investigated.”

This is what the Nature study set out to determine, and it was revealed that bees given access to neonicotinoid and pyrethroid pesticides were adversely affected in numerous ways, including:

  • Fewer adult worker bees emerged from larvae
  • A higher proportion of foragers failed to return to the nest
  • A higher death rate among worker bees
  • An increased likelihood of colony failure

The researchers said:

“Here we show that chronic exposure of bumble bees to two pesticides (neonicotinoid and pyrethroid) at concentrations that could approximate field-level exposure impairs natural foraging behavior and increases worker mortality leading to significant reductions in brood development and colony success.

We found that worker foraging performance, particularly pollen collecting efficiency, was significantly reduced with observed knock-on effects for forager recruitment, worker losses and overall worker productivity. Moreover, we provide evidence that combinatorial exposure to pesticides increases the propensity of colonies to fail.”

Why the Food Supply Could Be Dependent on Urgent Action by the EPA

The EPA acknowledges that “pesticide poisoning” may be one factor leading to colony collapse disorder,4 yet they have been slow to act to protect bees from this threat. The current lawsuit may help spur them toward more urgent action, which is desperately needed as the food supply hangs in the balance.

There are about 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food globally. Of these, 71 are pollinated by bees.5 In the US alone, a full one-third of the food supply depends on pollination from bees. Apple orchards, for instance, require one colony of bees per acre to be adequately pollinated. So if bee colonies continue to be devastated, major food shortages could result.

There is also concern that the pesticides could be impacting other pollinators as well, including bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and others, which could further impact the environment.

Four Steps to Help Protect the Bees

If you would like to learn more about the economic, political and ecological implications of the worldwide disappearance of the honeybee, check out the documentary film Vanishing of the Bees. If you’d like to get involved, here are four actions you can take to help preserve and protect our honeybees:

  1. Support organic farmers and shop at local farmer’s markets as often as possible. You can “vote with your fork” three times a day. (When you buy organic, you are making a statement by saying “no” to GMOs and toxic pesticides!)
  2. Cut the use of toxic chemicals in your house and on your lawn, and use only organic, all-natural forms of pest control.
  3. Better yet, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant a garden or other natural habitat. Lawns offer very little benefit for the environment. Both flower and vegetable gardens provide excellent natural honeybee habitats.
  4. Become an amateur beekeeper. Having a hive in your garden requires only about an hour of your time per week, benefits your local ecosystem, and you can enjoy your own honey!

Story at-a-glance

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to protect bees from neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a lawsuit against the agency, filed by beekeepers and environmental groups
  • The lawsuit alleges the EPA has ignored warnings that neonicotinoid pesticides are poisoning bees, and acted outside the law by allowing “conditional registration” of the pesticides
  • Neonicotinoid pesticides are a newer class of chemicals that are applied to seeds and taken up through the plant’s vascular system as it grows, where it is expressed in the pollen and nectar, which bees depend on for food
  • The EPA acknowledges that “pesticide poisoning” may be one factor leading to colony collapse disorder, and the European Food Safety Authority has singled out risks to bees from neonicotinoids, but the EPA has been slow to act to protect bees from this threat.

Source: mercola.com