Photo: More bad news for bees: The new

(Credit: Rakib Hasan Sumon via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Specialist Jode Roberts.

Have you heard of flupyradifurone? Probably not, unless you work for the federal government agency poised to approve this new pesticide for use in Canada. But take note: This new "F" word is bad news for bees.

Flupyradifurone is an insect-killing systemic pesticide similar to the controversial neonicotinoid, or neonic, family of bee-killing chemicals. When applied to seeds or soil, it's absorbed by plant roots and travels to leaves, flowers, pollen and nectar, making the plant potentially toxic to insects.

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This past summer, the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides analyzed 800 scientific studies and concluded that systemic pesticides like neonics are harming bees, butterflies, birds and worms and should be phased out globally. The European Union banned three neonics for "crops attractive to bees", but the European Environment Agency says that's just a starting point, and recommends regulators look at similar pesticides and take into account potential harmful effects on aquatic invertebrates, birds and other insects. The EEA also found "mounting scientific evidence has been systematically suppressed for many years and early warnings were ignored."

Inexplicably, Canada's Pest Management Regulation Agency has yet to respond to the Task Force findings and now wants to approve a new systemic pesticide. What's especially troubling is that, in its description, the PMRA states flupyradifurone "may pose a risk" to bees, birds, worms, spiders, small mammals and aquatic bugs, and that it doesn't readily break down in water, air or sunlight and may carry over to the following growing season. When it enters streams, rivers and wetlands, "it may persist for a long time."

Like neonics, flupyradifurone is a nerve poison, acutely toxic to bees if ingested. As in the past, we don't fully understand the cumulative effects of the increasing amounts of today's insecticides, pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals being applied to crops across the country.

Neonicotinoids are showing up more frequently and in higher concentrations than the harmful chemicals they replaced. A study last year found 90 per cent of Saskatchewan prairie potholes contained residual neonics in the spring, before farmers planted their fields. Research from the U.S. Midwest found neonics in all 79 samples taken from nine rivers. Similar results have been found in wetlands, streams and rivers in the southwest U.S., Georgia and California.

It's not even clear whether the widespread use of neonic seed treatments increases agricultural yields. A recent report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding soy crop treatments concluded, "these seed treatments provide little or no overall benefits to soybean production in most situations. Published data indicate that in most cases there is no difference in soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus not receiving any insect control treatment."

The European Environment Agency also found a 2004 ban on neonicotinoid chemicals by France for sunflower and maize crops hasn't negatively affected productivity. In fact, yields were higher in 2007 than they'd been in a decade.

You'd think we'd learn from past experience with persistent and bioaccumulative pesticides like DDT and organophosphates, and the more recent research on neonicotinoids. DDT was widely used until Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring drew attention to its negative impacts on ecosystems, wildlife and humans. Many, but not all, organophosphate pesticides have also been pulled from widespread use because we learned their neurotoxic effects posed serious risks to humans and wildlife.

Rather than approving new pesticides that may harm pollinators, birds and other animals, including humans, we need better ways to protect crops. A recent report, "Alternatives to neonicotinoid insecticides for pest control", published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research, suggests further research and methods including "diversifying crop rotations, altering the timing of planting, tillage and irrigation, using less sensitive crops in infested areas, applying biological control agents," and other lower-risk alternatives.

Ban the new "F" word



We need to stop contaminating the environment with neonics and related systemic pesticides. Approving flupyradifurone would take us in the wrong direction. Canada's Pest Management Regulation Agency is accepting comments on flupyradifurone approval until November 3. You can submit through the PMRA or David Suzuki Foundation websites.

Putting bees and ecosystem functioning at risk endangers us all. It's time to find a better way.

October 30, 2014
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/10/more-bad-news-for-bees-the-new-f-word/

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5 Comments

Jul 11, 2015
2:59 PM

I ve read some resource on bee s. but have not seen anything between Bees and GMO crops even in my flower garden I m thinking ….just keep the old untampered with plants. just to keep it save for bees, birds, insects

Jun 06, 2015
12:43 PM

“It’s not even clear whether the widespread use of neonic seed treatments increases agricultural yields.” How don’t they, when they decrease the insect damage? They certainly have helped potato growing her in Idaho… and guess what?.. bees don’t forage on potato flowers! This statement makes no sense…

Jan 22, 2015
6:07 PM

The issue runs a lot deeper. Is food only to be produced by large companies that are powerful enough to influence politics? The whole buy organic local produce mentality is very much a farce around where I live. Rich people can afford to buy expensive veggies and meats produced by small farmers. I seriously doubt that these farmers are making it and the working class does not have the time or money to afford these foods. Its all just not economically feasible. What does this have to do with bees? Simply that toxins are building up near cities and monocrop fields and that is toxic to us and the bees. Things will not change until the political environment does.

Jan 21, 2015
1:07 PM

This just released….

January 21, 2015

In This Update: EPA Registers New Insecticide Alternative to Neonicotinoids, Safer for Bees

The EPA is registering a new insecticide, flupyradifurone, that is safer for bees. It is expected to be an alternative to more toxic products including certain pyrethroid, neonicotinoid, organophosphate and avermectin insecticides.

As an insecticide, flupyradifurone is unusual in that laboratory-based studies indicate that the compound is practically non-toxic to adult honeybees. Studies show no adverse effect on overall bee colony performance or overwintering ability when compared to untreated colonies.

EPA’s decision meets the rigorous Food Quality Protection Act standard of “reasonable certainty of no harm” to human health. On the basis of protective and conservative human health and ecological risk assessments for the uses of the pesticide, EPA confirmed the safety of the use for the public, agricultural workers and wildlife. EPA coordinated its evaluation with our counterparts in Canada and Australia.

This decision was one of the first to incorporate newly-required bee studies and involved evaluating the largest number of bee-related studies ever for the registration of a new chemical. EPA reviewed 437 studies including 38 different tests on bees to analyze the potential exposure and effects of flupyradifurone. These included evaluation of the sublethal effects of pesticides on all life stages of bees, as well as effects on colony health in field studies. The field studies examined pollinator-attractive crops while bees were actively foraging after the crops had been treated through various application methods (seed, soil and foliar) to demonstrate very high exposure.

Flupyradifurone is registered for a large number of crops such as citrus, cotton, potatoes and many others to protect against piercing and sucking insects such as aphids, whiteflies, thrips, and pysllids, all of which have become increasingly resistant to other pesticides and are difficult to control. The registration of flupyradifurone will provide growers across the U.S. with a new pest resistance management tool that presents an effective countermeasure to resistance development. No residential uses have been proposed.

More information on this regulatory action can be found at www.regulations.gov, Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OPP-2013-0226-0044.

To learn more about EPA’s actions to protect pollinators, visit our Pollinator Protection website.

Nov 04, 2014
9:17 AM

Good article, WHY is the MANUFACTURER of this new poison never mentioned???

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