The Hidden Biopesticide on Your Produce


Few would argue that consuming ample quantities of fruits and vegetables in the diet is a good idea, right? Fresh produce may be the only food on the planet that all diet gurus agree on, but did you know that you may be getting a chemically-applied dose of a known carcinogen every time you eat a piece of “fresh” fruit?

If you have been eating lots of produce as part of a healthy diet, it may shock you to learn that more than forty countries, including the United States, have promoted the use of a genotoxic, carcinogenic “freshness preserver,” applied to extend the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables. And despite vehement denials of any danger to the public, health concerns regarding the expanding use of this substance continue to mount.

Sold by U.S.-based company AgroFresh Solutions, Inc. under three different trade names, this patented preservation process applies a synthetic pesticide to fruit before it has ripened. The active ingredient in the pesticide, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), retards ripening by blocking ethylene receptors in the fruit from receiving the phytohormone ethylene – the plant’s chemical cue to ripen.[1] The trade names under which this rapidly expanding practice are operating are SmartFresh™ Technology, which is applied to produce post-harvest; Harvista™, applied to apple and pear orchards; and RipeLock™, applied to bananas after picking to retard ripening. Once applied, 1-MCP can retard ripening for up to one year.[2]

Per the manufacturer, SmartFresh technology is sold as a way to “reduce fruit waste” (marketing-speak for “increase profits”) and “maintain texture, firmness, taste and appearance of fruits by warding off negative ethylene effects.” In short, applying 1-MCP allows produce distributors to keep fruits and vegetables in storage much longer after harvest, while maintaining a fresh-looking and -tasting product to sell. Heralded as a breakthrough technology, it preserves profits for growers by allowing them to sell in-demand produce varieties during off-seasons.

Why it Matters

Marketed as “non-toxic”, the manufacturer states that SmartFresh “poses no risk to humans, animals or the environment, when used as recommended.” This marketing campaign has been very effective. Perceived as being low-risk to consumers, SmartFresh is approved for use on apples, pears, persimmons, plums, cherimoyas, kiwis, tomatoes, peaches, melons, mangoes, limes, and avocados, with more uses planned.[3] It is interesting to note that a “non-toxic” substance that “poses no risk to humans” is accompanied by safe handling instructions that specify anyone involved in application of the chemical “Wear long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes, socks, chemical-resistant gloves and safety glasses or goggles” while handling.[4] Nothing screams “safety” like a hazmat suit! Image credit: http://agrofresh.octochemstore.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ProTabs_Pink_Use-Recommendations.pdf

The commercial implications of preserving the saleability of a produce harvest for an entire year are so significant, use of these technologies has spread across agricultural nations like a wildfire. 1-MCP has even penetrated the organic standards of several countries, with legislation knocking on the door of organic farming in the U.S. As of this writing, it is not allowable under the United States’ National Organic Program, however in mid-2016, a change was proposed to organic standards that would allow SmartFresh to be applied to tree fruits. The outcome of this proposal has not yet been announced.

With treated fruits lasting up to three times longer than non-treated fruits, the economic incentive is obvious. Organic standards are currently the only safeguard in place
to protect consumers from unknowingly ingesting toxic herbicides and pesticides. Organic standards should also strive to represent more localized, sustainable, and environmentally conscious agricultural practices. Are the organic standards in the United States strong enough to protect the public from the aggressive lobbying being done on behalf of these economic interests?

The most recent estimate available for the prevalence of this pesticide application comes from 2006, when approximately 60 percent of apples sold in the United States were treated with SmartFresh.[5] In 2018, this percentage has undoubtedly increased. And while it is not approved for use under current organic standards, there is only one test for 1-MCP, devised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and it is rarely employed. The test, which uses a radioisolated analytical method, detects 1-MCP residue on fruits and vegetables for up to 90 days post-treatment.[6] This test is considered expensive in the industry, as well as limited in effectiveness. As a result, testing for 1-MCP residue is rarely performed, helping foster conditions under which its use can go undetected. Testing is further hindered by an extraordinary EPA exemption from a set legal limit or tolerance level on surface residues.[7]

A new testing method is being pioneered that may help safeguard against unscrupulous agricultural practices that attempt to pass off chemically-treated produce as organic. The new test checks genetic activity, rather than surface residues of produce. According to the test developer, “Fruit treated with 1-MCP shows little or no genetic activity,” thus setting it apart from truly organic fruit. This test can also be used to predict the optimum time for picking fruit, allowing for greater control over quality without jumping into the toxic pesticide pool.[8]Whether this test will voluntarily be adopted is yet to be determined. Pressure from consumers for organic watchdogs to maintain the integrity of these standards is essential on local, state, and federal levels.

There are at least two groups of individuals who must take note of this issue: agricultural workers who are routinely exposed to high doses of this pesticide, and health-conscious individuals who strive to eat an optimized diet, comprised of multiple servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day. Research into the health implications for both groups of people presents serious challenges. Despite there being nearly 300 abstracts on 1-MCP on PubMed, the US National Institutes of Health’s database of scientific studies, research on human and environmental effects is scant. A 2005 peer review and meta-analysis by the European Union (EU) and the European Food Safety Authority that was published in EFSA Journal, highlighted the difficulties in making a thorough determination of the health and safety implications of 1-MCP. First, there are actual physical challenges: “At high concentrations, [1-MCP] is energetically self-reactive and becomes explosive if it is allowed to warm in a closed container. These properties present practical difficulties when conducting studies.” Perhaps most noteworthy is a deep-seated presumption of safety around this substance, which has created a climate in which testing is simply not done.  Despite requests from the aforementioned researchers for a thorough review of studies on 1-MCP, submissions were not available on the effects of feeding 1-MCP-treated foods to animals. Nor were studies submitted on long-term human exposure, neurotoxicity or reproductive toxicity. In addition, according to the researchers, “No analytical methods for the determination of residues in soil and water have been required, since 1-methylcyclopropene is a gas and it is unlikely to reach these compartments.” Kind of like how mustard gas doesn’t reach the soils and waters around exposure sites?

Human reactivity data were only available from inhalation studies, which showed that 10% of 1-MCP inhaled into the lungs on each breath was absorbed into the bloodstream. Results of blood analysis determined that “1-MCP is not acutely toxic. Based on available data, 1-MCP gave negative results in in-vitro and in-vivo genotoxicity assays. However, two impurities, 1-chloro-2-methylpropene (1-CMP) and 3-chloro2-methylpropene (3-CMP)…are reported to give positive results in genotoxicity studies and are carcinogenic. Thus, a classification of 1-MCP as T-R46 is proposed.” Let’s break down what this means. The substance, in stable form, is not “acutely toxic.” Reference the hazmat suit and extremes of caution outlined in the safe handling guidelines if you believe this claim! Once the substance is activated, the real cautionary tale begins. 1-CMP, which is emitted during activation, is defined as “a clear, colorless, highly volatile and flammable liquid chlorinated hydrocarbonthat emits highly toxic fumes of hydrochloric acid and other chlorinated compounds when heated to decomposition.” This substance literally becomes a chemical weapon on par with hydrogen chloride gas! 3-CMP is the other chlorinated compound that is released, also believed to be a human carcinogen. When heated, 3-CMP emits toxic fumes of hydrochloric acid and other chlorinated compounds.[9] Regarding the researchers proposed T-R46 classification, according to the International Chemical Safety Classification, T=Toxic, while R signifies “Harmful by inhalation” and “Dangerous for the ozone layer.” The number 46 spans a range between 20-59, denoting degree of risk. It is noteworthy that once a chemical reaches 40, humans can experience “Possible risks of irreversible effects” due to exposure.[10] Besides the cumulative, long-term risks of exposure to these carcinogenic, chlorinated compounds, researchers noted “In the short-term toxicity studies that were peer-reviewed, effects on red blood cells were also observed.”

The fallback argument for the EPA and FDA to allow these chemicals into our food supply, is the “allowable limits” clause. Allowable limits are set for our air quality, water purity, soil contamination levels, and even our food chain. 1-MCP levels that have previously been detectable on produce, if tests were performed, have fallen under the hypothetically-derived safety levels set for health and human safety. However, absence of data does not denote zero risk. When 1-MCP binds to the ethylene receptors in fruits and vegetables, the bond is permanent. This means we are ingesting this pesticide, in quantities that vary based on how many days post-treatment when the produce is consumed. Another factor being how much treated produce we are consuming. AgroFresh’s proliferating 1-MCP technologies have been in use in the United States fruit market for more than 15 years. With the limited amount of research into human and animal exposures over what is now the long-term, consumers who care about food safety enough to buy organic cannot afford to lose these critical protections.

Our levels of unwitting exposure will continue to increase as new ways to use these technologies are developed. Many of the current laws regarding 1-MCP were developed when the substance was only approved for use inside well-sealed containers, an effort to mitigate environmental risk. However, Harvista technology, also based on 1-MCP, is sprayed directly onto fruit orchards and vegetable fields.[11] As use spreads globally, and environmental protections wane, our organic food standards may be all that stand between the health-conscious consumer and questionable farming practices. 1-MCP may be the trojan horse that is already inside the city gates.

Side Effects of Long-Term Pesticide Exposure



Long-term exposure to pesticides has been linked to infertility, birth defects,1,2endocrine disruption, neurological disorders and cancer, so it’s a common-sense conclusion that fewer pesticides in our food supply would result in improved health among the general population.

In fact, one of the strongest selling points for eating organic food is that it can significantly lower your exposure to pesticides and other harmful chemicals used in conventional agriculture, and this measure in and of itself may help protect your long-term health and/or improve any health conditions you may have.

Since organic standards prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, organic foods are, as a rule, less contaminated, and studies have confirmed that those who eat a primarily organic diet have fewer toxins in their system.

Sadly, the chemical technology industry wields great power — so great that our government has largely turned a blind eye to the obvious, which is that too many toxic chemicals, in too great amounts, are being allowed in the growing of food. As noted in the featured film, “From DDT to Glyphosate:”

“Just as was the case in the 1950s with DDT and tobacco, we are on the brink of disastrous damage to health worldwide. This short film begins to explain why, and what we can do.”

Help Educate Those You Love

“From DDT to Glyphosate” is just half an hour long, yet it’s an excellent introduction to the dangers of pesticides.

Sadly, many are still unaware of just how many pesticides they’re exposed to on a daily basis via their food, so I urge you to help educate those you love by sharing this short film with your social networks.

The ‘Silent Spring’ Continues

In 1962, American biologist Rachel Carson wrote the groundbreaking book “Silent Spring,” in which she warned of the devastating environmental impacts of DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), suggesting the chemical may also have harmful effects on human health.

She rightfully questioned the logic and sanity of using such vast amounts of a chemical without knowing much about its ecological and human health impact.

Her book triggered a revolution in thinking that gave birth to the modern environmental movement, and the public outcry that resulted from her book eventually led to DDT being banned for agricultural use in the U.S. in 1972.

Unfortunately, DDT was simply replaced with other equally unsafe and untested chemicals. Today, we’re also exposed to even vaster amounts of pesticides, and a wider variety of them, which is why it’s so important to share this film with as many people as possible.

Consider this: the very same companies that developed chemical warfare weapons during World War II simply transitioned into agriculture after the war, and many of the same warfare chemicals are now sprayed on our food.

The notion that these chemicals are good for humans, the environment and the business of agriculture is a fabricated one.

Genetic Engineering Fuels the Chemical Agriculture Engine

As noted in the film, 80 percent of genetically engineered (GE) crops are designed to withstand herbicide application; most often glyphosate-based herbicides, such as Monsanto’s Roundup. As a result, we’re ingesting far greater quantities of pesticides than ever before.

The question is, where’s the breaking point? There’s reason to believe we may have crossed the threshold already. Health statistics suggest the average toxic burden has become too great for children and adults alike, and toxins in our food appear to play a primary role.

According to Dr. Joseph E. Pizzorno,3 founding president of Bastyr University, the first fully accredited multidisciplinary university of natural medicine and the first National Institutes of Health-funded center for alternative medicine research, toxins in the modern food supply are now “a major contributor to, and in some cases the cause of, virtually all chronic diseases.”

A recent report4,5 by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics6(FIGO), which represents OB-GYNs in 125 countries, warns that chemical exposures, including pesticides, now represent a major threat to human health and reproduction.

Pesticides are also included in a new scientific statement on endocrine-disrupting chemicals by the Endocrine Society Task Force.7,8

This task force warns that the health effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals is such that everyone needs to take proactive steps to avoid them — especially those seeking to get pregnant, pregnant women and young children.

Even extremely low-level pesticide exposure has been found to considerably increase the risk of certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. According to Michael Antoniou, Ph.D., a British geneticist interviewed in the film, “as a cocktail, I believe [pesticides] has converted our food supply into a slow poison.”

Rise in Chronic Disease Parallels Increased Glyphosate Use

The film shows how increases in global glyphosate use closely parallel increases in infertility, thyroid disorders, diabetes, liver and kidney disease, stroke and many other chronic diseases. Alas, the U.S. government does not acknowledge such a connection.

As noted by Claire Robinson, managing editor of GMWatch and author of the excellent book “GMO Myths and Truths,” while we do have a regulatory system, that system is grossly inadequate, as it doesn’t evaluate all the possible health and environmental effects of any given chemical.

The chemical industry also has a very strong lobby, and revolving doors between industry and the regulatory agencies in the U.S. have allowed for industry to largely dictate its own rules. Robinson also correctly notes that it is in fact chemical companies that are producing GE seeds.

This is an important point to remember. They’re not true agricultural firms. They’re chemical companies that have simply found another way to boost sales, and to believe they’re doing it out of altruism would be naïve.

Studies Show Even Ultra-Low Doses of Roundup Cause Harm

Antoniou has conducted tests revealing that ultra-low doses of Roundup administered to rats in drinking water produce liver and kidney damage over the long term. And these doses are thousands of times lower than what regulators say is completely safe for consumption.

Another recent study found Roundup adversely affects the development of female rats’ uteruses, increasing the risk for both infertility and uterine cancer. As reported by The Ecologist:9

“Doctors and scientists have noted high rates of miscarriage — sometimes called ‘spontaneous abortion’ — in women living in regions of Argentina where GM Roundup Ready soy is grown and sprayed with glyphosate herbicides. The new study may shed light on this phenomenon.

The dose of herbicide found to disrupt uterine development in the rats was 2 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight per day, based on the U.S. ‘reference dose’ of pure glyphosate that regulators deem safe to consume every day of our lives for a lifetime.”

So why is no action taken to protect human health? It really boils down to the fact that without Roundup and other pesticides, the GE seed business would collapse and chemical technology companies, with their vast resources and revolving doors into government regulatory agencies, have managed to deceive everyone into thinking there’s no problem.

Pesticide Use Is Increasing Worldwide

Worldwide, an estimated 7.7 billion pounds (about 3.5 billion kilograms) of pesticides are applied to crops each year, and that number is steadily increasing as developed nations are steadily transitioning over to chemical-based agriculture in a misguided and misinformed effort to increase yield and lower cost.10

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), Bangladesh and Thailand have quadrupled their pesticide use since the early 1990s. Ghana, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso have increased use by 1,000 percent, and Argentina’s use has risen 815 percent.11,12

The U.S. is still leading the charge when it comes to pesticide use, followed by Brazil, which is a top exporter of soybeans, corn and cotton. More than one-third of the 260 million gallons of pesticides used in Brazil each year is applied to soybeans. Cotton and citrus receive the greatest amounts, however.

But boosting yields with chemicals come at a cost. According to a 2012 analysis of FAO data, each 1 percent increase in crop yield is associated with a 1.8 percent increase in pesticide use.

Logic tells us this is an unsustainable trajectory when you consider the health ramifications associated with pesticide exposure and the environmental effects, which include destruction of soil and non-target plant life, pollution of waterways and the decimation of crucial pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Common Side Effects of Agricultural Chemicals

Depending on the specific chemical being used, agricultural chemicals are typically associated with their own specific side effects:

  • Insecticides primarily produce neurological symptoms, such as headaches
  • Fungicides tend to produce skin-related symptoms
  • Herbicides are associated with digestive and skin problems

Glyphosate, which is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world, was reclassified as a Class 2A “probable carcinogen” just last year by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO).

While the IARC stopped short of a stronger cancer classification for glyphosate, there’s ample evidence showing it is quite “definitely” carcinogenic.13 A research scientist and consultant who investigates agricultural chemicals in the food supply, Anthony Samsel, Ph.D., even claims to have uncovered evidence showing Monsanto has known glyphosate promotes cancer since 1981.

Glyphosate is most heavily applied on GE corn, soybeans and sugar beets, but it’s also commonly used to desiccate conventional (non-GMO but non-organic) wheat and protect other conventional crops from weeds. Disturbingly, glyphosate and Roundup may actually be even worse than DDT, having been linked to an ever-growing array of health effects, including the following:14,15

Nutritional deficiencies, especially minerals, as glyphosate immobilizes certain nutrients and alters the nutritional composition of the treated crop Disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids (these are essential amino acids not produced in your body that must be supplied via your diet)
Increased toxin exposure (this includes high levels of glyphosate and formaldehyde in the food itself) Impairment of sulfate transport and sulfur metabolism; sulfate deficiency
Systemic toxicity — a side effect of extreme disruption of microbial function throughout your body; beneficial microbes in particular, allowing for overgrowth of pathogens Gut dysbiosis (imbalances in gut bacteria, inflammation, leaky gut and food allergies such as gluten intolerance)
Enhancement of damaging effects of other foodborne chemical residues and environmental toxins as a result of glyphosate shutting down the function of detoxifying enzymes Creation of ammonia (a byproduct created when certain microbes break down glyphosate), which can lead to brain inflammation associated with autism and Alzheimer’s disease
Increased antibiotic resistance Increased cancer risk.16,17,18,19 Since the IARC’s determination, agricultural personnel have begun suing Monsanto over past glyphosate exposure, claiming it played a role in their bone cancer and leukemia20,21

Buyer Beware: Glyphosate Limits in Food Are Likely Excessive

Some of the studies implicating glyphosate as a serious hazard to animals and humans go back many years, yet in July 2013, right in the midst of mounting questions about glyphosate’s safety, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) went ahead and raised the allowable limits of glyphosate in both food and feed crops.22,23

Allowable levels in oilseed crops such as flax, soybean and canola were doubled, from 20 parts per million (ppm) to 40 ppm — just 10 ppm below the level at which Roundup may cause cell death, according to research24 published in 2011.

Permissible glyphosate levels in many other foods were raised to 15 to 25 times from previous levels. Root and tuber vegetables, with the exception of sugar, got one of the largest boosts, with allowable residue limits being raised from 0.2 ppm to 6.0 ppm. The level for sweet potatoes was raised to 3 ppm.

It’s important to remember that the allowable levels of glyphosate have been significantly raised, because IF the U.S. government does implement glyphosate testing for food, as indicated by the EPA in April 2015,25 then assurances that levels are “within safe limits” may have little to no real value.

Also, while the dangers of glyphosate are becoming more widely recognized, many fail to realize that the Roundup formulation used on crops is even more toxic than glyphosate in isolation. Research reveals the surfactants in the formula synergistically increase glyphosate’s toxicity, even though these ingredients are considered “inert” and therefore of no major consequence.

Recent follow-up research26,27 by Gilles-Éric Séralini, Ph.D. — whose initial lifetime feeding study revealed massive tumor growth and early death — shows that long-term exposure to even ultra-low amounts of Roundup may cause tumors, along with liver and kidney damage in rats.

Can Food System Survive Without Pesticides?

Many have gotten so used to the idea that pesticides are a necessity they give little credence to the idea that chemicals are notactually needed. As reported by Ensia, a magazine showcasing solutions to the Earth’s biggest environmental challenges:28

“‘How much is too much?’ is a question with which Jules Pretty, a professor at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, is constantly grappling. What’s encouraging is the growing evidence that farmers can lower their dependence on pesticides while maintaining agricultural production, sometimes by employing techniques that date back thousands of years.29

Over the past 25 years, Pretty has been studying sustainable agriculture practices30 around the world. He has shown that there’s growing proof that integrated pest management (IPM) — a strategy that uses alternative, diversified and historic agronomic practices to control pests — can help reduce pesticide use in a variety of farming systems.

In 2015, Pretty and colleagues published a meta-analysis31 of 85 field sites in 24 countries in Asia and Africa that employed IPM techniques and reduced pesticide use while boosting crop yields. Some eliminated pesticides entirely by using techniques such as crop rotation and pheromone traps to capture pests, says Pretty.

‘Thirty percent of the crop systems were able to transition to zero pesticides,’ Pretty says. Not only that, but surprisingly, he says, ‘the innovations around sustainability are happening in the poorer countries: Bangladesh, India and countries in Africa. We really could be holding these up as beacons.'”

According to Pretty, a key strategy to lower dependence on pesticides is “farmer field schools,” which allow farmers to experiment with various techniques and see the results for themselves. This has already proven far more effective than trying to persuade or force farmers to alter their techniques.

Once they’ve seen the results with their own eyes, most are more than willing to implement pesticide-free methods, and to share their experience with others. He’s convinced that “if enough farmers in enough developing countries can become convinced of the benefits of sustainable farming practices like IPM, the world’s reliance on pesticides can be lowered,” Ensia writes.

Which Foods Are the Most Important to Buy Organic?

I encourage you to share “From DDT to Glyphosate” with everyone you know. Post it on Facebook, Twitter or share it via e-mail. It’s really crucial for everyone to understand that a large portion of our poor health is due to toxic exposures via food.

Everyone can be harmed by pesticides, but if you’re a woman of childbearing age or have young children, taking steps to reduce your exposure is especially important. Ideally, all of the food you and your family eat would be organic. That said, not everyone has access to a wide variety of organic produce, and it can sometimes be costlier than buying conventional.

One way to save some money while still lowering your pesticide exposure is to purchase certain organic items, and “settling” for others that are conventionally grown, based on how heavily each given crop is typically treated with pesticides.

Animal products, like meat, butter, milk and eggs are the most important to buy organic, since animal products tend to bioaccumulate toxins from their pesticide-laced feed, concentrating them to far higher concentrations than are typically present in vegetables.

Please bear this in mind, because if the new Roberts-Stabenow bill (S. 2609) for a national GMO labeling standard gets passed, meat, poultry and egg products will be exempt from any GMO disclosure requirements, even if the animals were fed GE feed and/or the product contains other GE ingredients, such as GE high-fructose corn syrup.

So you simply have to remember that in order to avoid GE ingredients and pesticides, you need to purchase organic, 100 percent grass-fed animal products.

Beyond animal foods, the pesticide load of different fruits and vegetables can vary greatly. Last year, Consumer Reports analyzed 12 years of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Pesticide Data Program to determine the risk categories (from very low to very high) for different types of produce.32

Because children are especially vulnerable to the effects of environmental chemicals, including pesticides, they based the risk assessment on a 3.5-year-old child. They recommend buying organic for any produce that came back in the medium or higher risk categories, which left the following foods as examples of those you should always try to buy organic, due to their elevated pesticide load.

Peaches Carrots
Strawberries Green beans
Sweet bell peppers Hot peppers
Tangerines Nectarines
Cranberries Sweet potatoes

Help Support Organics and the Battle Against GMOs

GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is “safe and beneficial,” and that it advances the agricultural industry. They also say that GMOs, or genetically “engineered” (GE) foods, help ensure the global food supply and sustainability. But is there any truth to these claims? I believe not. For years, I’ve stated the belief that GMOs pose one of the greatest threats to life on the planet. Genetic engineering is NOT the safe and beneficial technology that it is touted to be.

The FDA cleared the way for GE (Genetically Engineered) Atlantic salmon to be farmed for human consumption. Thanks to added language in the federal spending bill, the product will require special labeling so at least consumers will have the ability to identify the GE salmon in stores. However, it’s imperative ALL GE foods be labeled, which is currently still being denied.

The FDA is threatening the existence of our food supply. We have to start taking action now. I urge you to share this article with friends and family. If we act together, we can make a difference and put an end to the absurdity. Thankfully, we have organizations like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to fight back against these corporate giants. So please, fight for your right to know what’s in your food and help support the GMO labeling movement by making a donation today.

Source:mercola.com

 

Bayer won’t fight EPA ban on pesticide


Bayer CropScience will give up its fight with federal regulators over their ban of a pesticide commonly used on almonds, alfalfa, tomatoes and other California crops.

The company said in a statement Wednesday that it was too risky to take its case to a federal appeals court or to reapply for approval of the chemical, flubendiamide, marketed by Bayer under the brand name Belt and by Nichino America as Tourismo and Vetica.

The companies have stopped selling those products, although stockpiles they already shipped can be sold and used, according to a recent decision by an appeals panel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Pressing the fight might have allowed Bayer to renew its scientific claims that the chemical poses no serous threat to freshwater animals, such as snails, worms, and mussels, but “that opportunity was far from certain,” said Charlotte Sanson, Bayer’s director of registrations.

Further appeal, Sanson said, “carried a fair amount of risk, including the potential that some of the gains we made … would be lost.”

Among the gains were a decision by the EPA’s appeals board to modify the cancellation of flubendiamide to allow distributors and retailers other than Bayer and Nichino to sell or distribute existing stock. Neither the agency nor Bayer revealed how much of the product is still available to growers, who have applied it to more than 200 crops on nearly 2.5 million acres.

Bayer and Nichino received conditional approvals in 2008 for flubendiamide, provided they agreed to voluntarily cancel the agency’s registration of the chemical if EPA scientists later determined that its further use posed “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.”

That provision was created by Congress in part to allow chemical companies to receive more rapid approval of novel pesticides while further studies are underway. It included a provision for the EPA to likewise revoke the approval rapidly and ban any further use if agency scientists found the chemical caused harm.

EPA earlier this year concluded that the chemical posed an unreasonable threat and gave the companies a week to surrender their registration. The companies balked, arguing that the condition of the registration — including the rapid termination — was unlawful, and that the EPA’s scientific review ignored additional data that Bayer had gathered while the chemical was in use.

An administrative law judge upheld the termination, and the appeals board agreed, but reversed the judge regarding whether stocks of the chemicals shipped by the companies before the cancellation could be sold or distributed.

EPA officials told the review board that the agency didn’t intend to use similar conditions to approve other chemicals, a decision Bayer hailed as a victory.

California growers applied 42,495 pounds of flubendiamide to 521,140 acres in 2013, the last year for which complete data were available, according to the state Department of Pesticide Regulation.

More than a third of that was applied to almonds — 14,693 pounds on 125,557 acres, according to the department. Growers applied 6,002 pounds of it to 91,828 acres of alfalfa, and 3,684 pounds to 78,348 acres of processing tomatoes, which are used in paste and other products.

Earlier this month, Germany-based Bayer AG, the parent company of Bayer CropScience, announced a $66 billion acquisition of U.S.-based Monsanto Co. The deal is under review by regulators.

Pesticide DDT linked to slow metabolism, obesity and diabetes, mouse study finds.


A new study in mice is the first to show that developmental exposure to DDT increases the risk of females later developing metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that include increased body fat, blood glucose, and cholesterol.
Exposure of pregnant mice to the pesticide DDT is linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and related conditions in female offspring later in life, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis.

The study, published online July 30 in the journalPLOS ONE, is the first to show that developmental exposure to DDT increases the risk of females later developing metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that include increased body fat, blood glucose, and cholesterol.

DDT was banned in the United States in the 1970s but continues to be used for malaria control in countries including India and South Africa.

Scientists gave mice doses of DDT comparable to exposures of people living in malaria-infested regions where it is regularly sprayed, as well as of pregnant mothers of U.S. adults who are now in their 50s.

“The women and men this study is most applicable to in the United States are currently at the age when they’re more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, because these are diseases of middle- to late adulthood,” said lead author Michele La Merrill, assistant professor of environmental toxicology at UC Davis.

The scientists found that exposure to DDT before birth slowed the metabolism of female mice and lowered their tolerance of cold temperature. This increased their likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome and its host of related conditions.

“As mammals, we have to regulate our body temperature in order to live,” La Merrill said. “We found that DDT reduced female mice’s ability to generate heat. If you’re not generating as much heat as the next guy, instead of burning calories, you’re storing them.”

The study found stark gender differences in the mice’s response to DDT. Females were at higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cholesterol, but in males, DDT exposure did not affect obesity or cholesterol levels and caused only a minor increase in glucose levels.

A high fat diet also caused female mice to have more problems with glucose, insulin and cholesterol but was not a risk factor for males. The sex differences require further research, the authors said.

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.

Monsanto Pesticides To Blame For Birth Defects In Argentina.


Argentina has become one of the worlds largest soybean producers, with the majority of its crops being majorly composed of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Agrochemical spraying in the country has mushroomed over the last several years, in 1990 roughly 9 million gallons of argochemical spraying was needed, compared to today’s requirement of roughly 84 million gallons. Included in that was the use of over 200 million liters of herbicides containing poisons such as glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. The country’s entire soybean crop, along with nearly all of its cotton and corn crops, have become genetically modified over the last decade. Along with the increase in GMO crops and pesticide use, the country has seen a disturbing and alarming growth in the prevalence of birth defects, cancer rates, and other negative health ailments. This has lead many of its citizens, including medical professionals, to assert the notion that pesticides, GMOs, and biotech giants are the ones to blame.

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Two year old Camila Veron [pictured above], was born with multiple organ problems and severely disabled, the doctors had told her family that the agrochemicals might have been to blame. And dozens of other similar cases have been witnessed in the area. It is firmly believed that the herbicide used on the genetically modified crops, may over an extended period of time after consumption, cause brain, intestinal, and heart defects in fetuses. In Ituzaingo, a district comprised of roughly 5,000 people [and surrounded by many soy fields] has seen over the past eight years, more than 300 documented cases of cancer associated with fumigations and pesticides have been experienced, they have reported cancer rates that are 41 times the national average.

Sergio H. Lence, "The Agricultural Sector in Argentina: Major Trends and Recent Developmebts," 2010Monsanto has [unsurprisingly] denied the claims that their GMOs have contributed in any way to the increased occurrence of experienced birth defects in the nation. Even though dozens of cases have been exposed which illustrate the misuse and illegality of pesticide application, pesticides are showing up in alarming rates in the soil and drinking water. Disturbingly, 80% of children surveyed in one area were found to have pesticides in their blood. Studies have demonstrated that low concentrations of pesticides [such as glyphosate] is understood to harm human cells and cause cancer.

Unfortunately for the Monsanto public relations department, the Associated Press has documented numerous cases within the country where poisons are being, and have been, applied in ways which are prohibited by existing law, or unanticipated by regulatory science. Medical professionals in the area have also been advising their clients that pesticide application within the country may be to blame. Not only is the rise of Roundup-saturated crops a potential health risk to residents of the area, but it’s a danger to the environment, and other animals that will eat these crops. In the ongoing battle against genetically modified foods and biotech [government-protected] corporate giants like Monsanto, it is crucial to remember that genetically engineered foods have never been proven safe for consumption over an extended period of time. One only hopes that corporations such as Monsanto, who destroy lives and communities, be held responsible for their carelessly negligible actions.

Scientists discover another cause of bee deaths.


So what is with all the dying bees? Scientists have been trying to discover this for years. Meanwhile, bees keep dropping like… well, you know.

Is it mites? Pesticides? Cell phone towers? What is really at the root? Turns out the real issue really scary, because it is more complex and pervasive than thought.

Quartz reports:

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.
The researchers behind that study in PLOS ONE — Jeffery S. Pettis, Elinor M. Lichtenberg, Michael Andree, Jennie Stitzinger, Robyn Rose, Dennis vanEngelsdorp — collected pollen from hives on the east coast, including cranberry and watermelon crops, and fed it to healthy bees. Those bees had a serious decline in their ability to resist a parasite that causes Colony Collapse Disorder. The pollen they were fed had an average of nine different pesticides and fungicides, though one sample of pollen contained a deadly brew of 21 different chemicals. Further, the researchers discovered that bees that ate pollen with fungicides were three times more likely to be infected by the parasite.

The discovery means that fungicides, thought harmless to bees, is actually a significant part of Colony Collapse Disorder. And that likely means farmers need a whole new set of regulations about how to use fungicides. While neonicotinoids have been linked to mass bee deaths — the same type of chemical at the heart of the massive bumble bee die off in Oregon — this study opens up an entirely new finding that it is more than one group of pesticides, but a combination of many chemicals, which makes the problem far more complex.

And it is not just the types of chemicals used that need to be considered, but also spraying practices. The bees sampled by the authors foraged not from crops, but almost exclusively from weeds and wildflowers, which means bees are more widely exposed to pesticides than thought.

The authors write, “[M]ore attention must be paid to how honey bees are exposed to pesticides outside of the field in which they are placed. We detected 35 different pesticides in the sampled pollen, and found high fungicide loads. The insecticides esfenvalerate and phosmet were at a concentration higher than their median lethal dose in at least one pollen sample. While fungicides are typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees, we found an increased probability of Nosema infection in bees that consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load. Our results highlight a need for research on sub-lethal effects of fungicides and other chemicals that bees placed in an agricultural setting are exposed to.”

While the overarching issue is simple — chemicals used on crops kill bees — the details of the problem are increasingly more complex, including what can be sprayed, where, how, and when to minimize the negative effects on bees and other pollinators while still assisting in crop production. Right now, scientists are still working on discovering the degree to which bees are affected and by what. It will still likely be a long time before solutions are uncovered and put into place. When economics come into play, an outright halt in spraying anything at all anywhere is simply impossible.

Quartz notes, “Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.”

Pesticide risks need more research and regulation.


Developing countries need stronger pesticide regulation and a better understanding of how pesticides behave in tropical climates, according to experts behind a series of articles published in Science today.

They also need an international body to carry out regular pesticide safety assessments — ensuring they are used properly by farmers who are given thorough training in their use — and to monitor the safety of chemical levels in food, the experts say.

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In the face of projections that the global population will reach nine billion by 2050, scientists must develop new technologies to make pesticides safer, and continue research into crops that will not require pesticides at all, according to the special section in Science.
 
Millions of tonnes of pesticides are used each year in agriculture, sometimes with poor oversight and knowledge regarding theirenvironmental impact, particularly in developing countries.
 
A review article by a team led by Kathrin Fenner, a senior scientist at the Eawag aquatic research institute in Switzerland, looks at pesticide degradation. It also identifies knowledge gaps in what happens to pesticides once they are applied in the field.
 
According to Fenner, the biggest challenge is relating what is measured in laboratory studies to what is observed long-term in the environment. One example is what happens to pesticides that have been in the soil for a long time and what products they leave behind as they degrade.
 
“There are situations that are not covered, or not fully covered, by laboratory studies, especially situations in low concentrations in groundwater,” Fenner says.
 
Furthermore, laboratory studies carried out for pesticide regulation in the United States or Europe look at factors specific to those regions, such as
climate and soil type, and not at the warmer climate zones where many developing countries lie.
 
“How relevant that really is to more tropical settings, where you have more organic, carbon-rich soils and higher temperatures, is also somewhat of a knowledge gap,” says Fenner.
 

“If you reduce plant diseases, you could feed 20 to 30 per cent more calories to people.”

Jeffery Dangl

Efforts to lower dependency on pesticides altogether is one option addressed in the Science articles.
 
A review article by Jeffery Dangl, a biology professor at the University of North Carolina, United States, and his colleagues, reveals developments in the understanding of plant immune systems and DNA sequencing that allow scientists to engineer crops that are less susceptible to pests and disease, and thus require less pesticides.
 
The technology could help tackle environmental concerns, such asgroundwater contamination. It could also help reduce plant diseases and recover crop losses.
 
“We lose 20 to 30 per cent of our global food supply to pests and pathogens every year,” Dangl tells SciDev.Net. “If you reduce plant diseases and recover that, you could feed 20 to 30 per cent more calories to people.”
 
The research would have a significant impact on developing countries, where, Dangl says, there are health issues and poor regulation of pesticide use.
 
“One often sees farmers throwing chemicals on their plants, using their hands, and without proper clothing, and they often use fungicides and pesticides that are no longer allowed in the developed world,” he says. “There’s poor regulation and poor administration of the regulation.”
 
One solution could be to strengthen the international body that works to maintain regular safety assessments of pesticides.
 
According to an article by Philippe Verger, from WHO and Alan Boobis, from Imperial College London, this would be done through improved cooperation with the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues, an expert body that aims to harmonise the requirements and risk assessments on pesticide residues.
 
“We know developing countries don’t have the resources to adequately assess the risk of these various chemicals,” says Verger. “So the WHO, together with FAO, is providing this regulation to give a framework for evaluating these compounds.”

The importance of improving such a body would not be limited to the developing world. It would ensure internationally that pesticides are licensed and used properly, and that farmers have instructions and training for their use. Most importantly, it would monitor the safety of the levels of chemicals in the food we eat.

“If we want to continue to feed the world population, we have to increase productivity. To do that, pesticides will increase globally, so the sector needs to integrate the protection of public health,” says Verger

Source:Scivx

 

Scientists Discover Fungicide and Pesticide are Killing Bees―and It’s Worse Than You Thought.


Story at-a-glance

  • Researchers analyzed pollen from bee hives and found 35 different pesticides along with high fungicide loads.
  • Each sample contained, on average, nine different pesticides and fungicides, although one contained 21 different chemicals.
  • While previously assumed to be safe for bees, bees fed pollen contaminated with high levels of fungicides had a significant decline in the ability to resist infection with the Nosema ceranae parasite, which has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)
  • In the US, the “Save America’s Pollinators Act” has been introduced; if passed, this bill, HR 2692, would require the EPA to pull neonicotinoid pesticides, also implicated in bee die-offs, from the market until their safety is proven.
  • killing-bees

Bee populations are dwindling across the globe, putting one in three food crops like apples and almonds, which depend on pollination from bees, at serious risk.

In the US, beekeepers have reported annual losses of about 33 percent of their hives each year, a level of loss that the Agricultural Research Services reports could threaten the economic viability of the bee pollination industry if it continues1(and some beekeepers report much higher losses than this at upwards of 70 or, in some cases, 100 percent).

Despite the growing losses, the causes of the massive bee die-offs have yet to be firmly defined, although accumulating research is pointing to a cocktail of agricultural chemicals as a likely primary culprit.

New Study: Fungicides May Be Killing Bees

Systemic neonicotinoid pesticides have been increasingly blamed for bee deaths (and were implicated in a recent mass bee die-off of 25,000 bumblebees along with millions of bee deaths in Canada), prompting the European Union (EU) to ban them for two years.

Now, it appears measures that target single classes of pesticides, though a move in the right direction, may be falling short. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers analyzed pollen from bee hives in seven major crops and found 35 different pesticides along with high fungicide loads.2 Each sample contained, on average, nine different pesticides and fungicides, although one contained 21 different chemicals.

Furthermore, when the pollen was fed to healthy bees, they had a significant decline in the ability to resist infection with the Nosema ceranae parasite, which has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

What makes the research particularly unique is the concerning data on fungicides, which has so far been assumed to be safe for bees. While farmers are advised to avoid spraying pesticides when bees are present, for instance, fungicides contain no such warnings.

The researchers explained:

“While fungicides are typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees, we found an increased probability of Nosema infection in bees that consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load. Our results highlight a need for research on sub-lethal effects of fungicides and other chemicals that bees placed in an agricultural setting are exposed to.”

Also concerning, the researchers found that the bees in the study collected pollen almost exclusively from weeds and wildflowers, and this, too, was contaminated with pesticides even though they were not directly sprayed.

“It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” the study’s lead author told Quartz.3

US Bill Introduced to Take Neonicotinoids Off the Market

Following the June incident that killed 25,000 bumblebees, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) announced that they were restricting the use of 18 pesticide products containing dinotefuran, a type of neonicotinoid.

These chemicals are typically applied to seeds before planting, allowing the pesticide to be taken up through the plant’s vascular system as it grows. As a result, the chemical is expressed in the pollen and nectar of the plant, and hence the danger to bees and other pollinating insects.

As mentioned, the EU has also banned these pesticides, beginning December 1, 2013, to study their involvement with large bee kills they, too, are experiencing.

To date, however, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to take action and has already been sued once by beekeepers and environmental groups for failing to protect bees from neonicotinoid pesticides. 

They have also green-lighted another pesticide that is a close cousin to these toxic chemicals (sulfoxaflor) and, as a result, several beekeeping organizations and beekeepers have filed a legal action against the EPA for approving sulfoxaflor, which is considered by many to be a “fourth-generation neonicotinoid.

In the US, the tide may be turning, however, as just last month the “Save America’s Pollinators Act” was introduced. If passed, this bill, HR 2692, would require the EPA to pull neonicotinoid pesticides from the market until their safety is proven. Please contact your representative today to voice your support for this incredibly important issue.

US Almond Crops Are Already At Risk

We’re beginning to get a taste of what the world would be like without bees. This year, many of the 6,000 almond orchard owners in California simply could not find enough bees to pollinate their almond trees, at any price. This is alarming, considering that 80 percent of the world’s almonds come from California’s central valley, an 800,000-acre area of almond orchards that are 100 percent dependent on bees pollinating the trees. Surprisingly, almonds are the number one agricultural product in California.

Fortunately, unsurpassed efforts that included persuading beekeepers as far away as Florida to ship their bees cross country, delayed bloom, and unseasonably good weather thereafter allowed almond growers to dodge the bullet – this year – despite having fewer and weaker-than-ever hives…

This narrowly achieved success may lead some to reach the mistaken conclusion that beekeepers’ concerns are overblown, but don’t be fooled. One beekeeper went so far as to say he believes the beekeeper industry is doomed and cannot survive for more than another two to three years unless drastic changes are implemented immediately…

What Are Some of the Top Theories for Bee Die-Offs?

Environmental chemicals are a forerunner for what’s causing so many bees to die, but it’s likely that there are multiple factors at play here. Among the top proposed culprits include:

·         Pesticides, insecticides and fungicides – Neonicotinoids, such as Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, kills insects by attacking their nervous systems. These are known to get into pollen and nectar, and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

·         Malnutrition/Nutritional deficiencies – Many beekeepers place the hives near fields of identical crops, which may result in malnutrition as the bees are only getting one type of nectar. Essentially, this theory is identical to that of human nutrition; we need a wide variety of nutrients from different foods.

If you keep eating the same limited range of foods, you can easily end up suffering from nutritional deficiencies. Poor nutrition suppresses immune function, making the bees far more susceptible to toxins from pesticides, viruses, fungi, or a combination of factors that ultimately kill them.

·         Viruses and fungi – There’s even the possibility that some new form of “AIDS-like” viral infection is affecting the bees.

·         Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) – Researchers have discovered that when a cellular phone is placed near a hive, the radiation generated by it (900-1,800 MHz) is enough to prevent bees from returning to them, according to a study conducted at Landau University several years ago.4

More recently, a study published in 2011 found that the presence of microwaves from cell phones have a dramatic effect on bees, causing them to become quite disturbed.5

·         Lack of natural foraging areas – Mass conversions of grasslands to corn and soy in the Midwest has dramatically reduced bees’ natural foraging areas.

·         Genetically modified (GM) crops – In 2007, a German study demonstrated that horizontal gene transfer appears to take place between the GM crop and the bees that feed on it.6 When bees were released in a field of genetically modified rapeseed, and then fed the pollen to younger bees, the scientists discovered the bacteria in the guts of the young ones mirrored the same genetic traits as ones found in the GM crop.

You Can Start Helping Bees Right in Your Own Backyard

The Pollinator Partnership has revealed many ways you can help the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations.7 Clearly major steps need to be taken on a national level to protect pollinators from toxic chemicals and other threats, and you can help in this regard by supporting the Save America’s Pollinators Act. Friends of the Earth has also launched the Bee-Action Campaign to tell stores to take bee-killing pesticides like neonicotinoids off of their shelves, and you can help by signing their petition now.

That said, you can even make a difference right in your own backyard:

·         Reduce or eliminate your use of pesticides

·         Plant a pollinator-friendly garden by choosing a variety of plants that will continue flowering from spring through fall; check out the Bee Smart Pollinator App for a database of nearly 1,000 pollinator-friendly plants

·         Choose plants native to your region and stick with old-fashioned varieties, which have the best blooms, fragrance and nectar/pollen for attracting and feeding pollinators

·         Install a bee house

Finally, if you would like to learn even more about the economic, political and ecological implications of the worldwide disappearance of the honeybee, check out the extremely informative documentary film Vanishing of the Bees.

Pesticides Are Leading Cause of Bee Die-Offs..


As we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.

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Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.

Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.

“There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis VanEngelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.

Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides.

Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.

In recent years, a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids has been linked to bee deaths and in April regulators banned the use of the pesticide for two years in Europe where bee populations have also plummeted. But VanEngelsdorp, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, says the new study shows that the interaction of multiple pesticides is affecting bee health
.
“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,” he says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”

The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees, which are descendants of European bees, do not bring home pollen from native North American crops but collect bee chow from nearby weeds and wildflowers. That pollen, however, was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying.

“It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says VanEngelsdorp.

Sources: Raw For Beauty