tv Earth Focus LINKTV May 28, 2016 12:00pm-12:31pm PDT
>> today on "earth focus," neonicotinoids. iithe world's most widely us pesticide destrining the se o of the food chain? coming up on "earth focus." >> they're a mutagen. >> they're extremely persistent and extremely mobile. >> they are now found routinely in stream samples a as well a well samples across the uniteded states.. >> if it's going to a affect everything from honeybees to earthworms, uh, that is s serios inin and of itself. >> neonicotinoids are among the most widely used pesticides in the world. they bring in billions in profits for the companies that make them. but now, growing evidence shows
that these insecticides are not only killing target pests, they are killing many beneficial species and destroyoying the bae of the food chain. this has hahappened before. are they the new ddt? >> we don't want to have an insecticide that kills things it shouldn't. >> we've been somehow railroaded by agrochemical companies into relying entirely on their products. >> and i think we e should be really concerned. >> it began with honeybees.. in 2006, large numbers of worker bees began to abruptly disappear from honeybee colonies. sisince then, beekeepers have bn lolosing 30% or r more of theirr hives annually, losses that t ae higher than normal. this phenomenon came to be called colony collapse disorder.
new york state beekeeper jim doan saw it firsthand. >> i'veve worked in bees foror w 46 years, and so i know what normal looks like, and what we've seen over the l last 6 or7 years i is not normal. >> hoybybee ls hahas conseqncnces f thehe enomy.. one-irird ofood d pruced i i ee u.sdepependon hononbee polnanation >> we e putting risk severahundred llion dolls of product eryry yea it is sisignificant bebecause te crops that are pollinated a some of them that really add diversity and vitality to our dit.t. >> honeybe e loss havave en linked tmumultip facacto, lie e pestideses, bitatt degratation,alnunutrion, pathogensand varr m mite infestitions. fopesticide manufacturer bayer crop science, the issue is clear. >> most experts reree that the
single greatest threat to honeybee health is the varroa miteanan invive bloosuckckin pesthat both rectctly parasites younand adt bees and vectors bee diseases. where varroa mites are absent or well conololled, honeybees are thriving >> but jim says he knows why his bees are dying. >> we had a multitude of neonics that were showing up in our bees. it doesn't take much to killl a bee. >> neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticide and coming on the scene in the 1990s. it is the fastetest-growing group of inseccticides inin the uninited states. >> for the companies that make them, neonicotinoids, or neonics, are big business. they bring in over $2.6 billion a year in global sales. they are widely used as seed treatments, applied as soil drench, or sprayed onto foliage. in the u.s., they are used on
sosome 200 millionon acres of cropland, on almost all c cn, canola, and half of all soybean crops, as well as many frfruits and vegetables. >> they are used in home and garden products, often at concentrations that are far higher than those you will find in the agricultural sector. >> millions of pounds of these insecticides are usused in urban and suburban arereas. and in urn areas we're usuaually doing it o have the perfect rose or the nicest rhododendron or a lawn without any insect pests in it. >> manufacturers argue the pest-fighting power of neonics is indispensable to american agriculture. without neonics, consumers would pay higher prices for f food, farm exportss woulde e lessompepetive, anan the u.sececonomy woululd suffer. >> in the 1940s, we had the
organochlorine insecticides, such as ddt and endosulfan, and initially these pesticides were viewed as a miracle chemistry. >> we startedd using more and momore of these asas industrial agriculture t took hohold in the fifties, sixties, and, really, this is what rachel carson talked about in "silent spring." using all these insecticides was really leading to what she felt was a collapse of biodiversity. were killing the underpinnin of, uh, of thehe food chain.n. >> by the 10s0s, regulatorsrs we rushing to get these organochlorine pesticides off the market because of their persrsistence in t the environmt and theieir possib link with birth defects, cancers, eggshell thinning in birds, and other
problems. >> along in the late eighties and early nineties, really people started to think, well, we need something that is more targeted. we need chemicals that are not so broadly toxic to everything. and t that's really where neonicotinoids came from. the idea was thatat these chemicals, although highly toxic to insects, are less acutely toxic to mammals, they're less acutely toxic to fish. they also thought, what if we can target them insiside the plant? if we n target them inside the plant, this is going to be better, because the animals outside the plant arere not going to be affected. >> they became popular because they were useas a sysysmic insecticide, so you could apappy itit to the seeeed and it wouout be put in the ground a t the ant would take iupup ait grows, eventualally giving the plant prototection from m pests.
>> they''re founund in the leav, the stems, the roots, and the pollen and the nectar. and nobody really thought about that weak link, which was toxic pollen, toxic nectar, and toxic for a long time in these crops. >> neonicicotinoids are nerve toxins affecting thnenervous system of organis. . bayer crop science says they are safe for honeybees. >> honeneybee health in north america began to deinine many years before neonicotinoids were in use. we've tested these products for many years, and in the field under real exposure conditions, the products are safe, d d we he lolotsf studies to shothat. >>many scientists osose researar is not funded bthee pestice ininstry challenge t safe of f onics, saying th even low levels oexexpore can affect the abily y of heybeeses to communicacate and can supupps their imimmune system, making th more sususceptible to o virusesd varroa miteses.
>> the effects of these pesticides s on the bees s is manyfold. it affects reproduction. the navigational ability of the bees is impaired. they can't find their way home. if they can't find theiwaway home, they can't riring rourcess back to thehe hive, thehe hive s depleted of worker bees and forager bebees, and ththe hive t crashshes after that. >> and it's not only honeybees that are affected. >> we're seeing broad-scale decline in really important pollininators, like our bumblebees. perhaps 30% of our bumblebees are in dedecline, a a quarter of them at risk of extinction in the near future. >> david goulsonon, a scientistt based in the united kingdom, looked into how neonicotinoids affect bumblebees. >> we wanted to know what would happen to a bumblebee nest that was next to a field of a flowering crop like canola that had been treated as a seed dressing with a neonicotinoid. so we simply took bumblebee
nests and we either gave them healthy food for a fortnight or we gave them food that we'd added, um, neonicotinoids to to mimic the exact concentrations that would be in the pollen or nectar they gathered from treated or [indistinct] crop. and then we put the nests outside. they then had to forage for themselves. they had to fly into the landscape and bring back food. we compared how well the nests did that were either treated or not treated. and the effects were really astonishing. we found that the control nests, the ones eating healthy food, grew faster, got much bigger. compared to the treated nest, the treated nest produced 85% fewer new queens than the healthy, the control nest. if that's happening with wild nests, which there's no reason to believe that it wouldn't be, then that means that the following spring, there are going to be 85% fewer queen bees starting new nests, which you'd imagine could have huge knock-on long-term effects if that's happening every year.
>> and it's not only pollinators at risk. in june 2014, the task force on systemic pesticidedes, an indepependent p of scientists from 15 nations, found that neonics and the pesticide fipronil also harmed birds, amphibians, reptiles, as well as terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. eararthworms, vitital for soill producuctivity, are e especial vulnerable. neonics affect their tunneling behavior and sperm quality. jean-marc bonmatin of the national center for scientific research in france, was one the leaead authors of t the gr's findndings. >> [speaeaking french]h] >> the task force says systemic pesticide contamination is so
widespread that the diversity and stability of the world's ecosystems is at risk. the task force based its findings on an analysis of 800 peer-reviewed reports, the most comprehensive review of the scientific literature on systemic pesticides to date. when asked to comment, bayer crop science said the task force only looks s at worst-c-case scenarios, and that studies under realistic field conditions show that systemic pesticides do not harm honeybees, birds, or other wildlife. >> the main concern with neonics is that thehey have such a high toxicity to a broad range of invertebratetes, terrestrial and aquatic. they are extrememely persistent and extremely mobile.
and you put those 3 conditions together and you're talking about removal l of a large segmt of the invertebrate community. >> they're aumumulating t the soil. they'redrawn up by hedgerow plant by trees gwinng in frmlalan and so on. and so esseially anhing hat's ving ifarmlands being slly poined all th time. >> the othther thing thahat haso out is t that they're much m moe water soluble than everyone e ws led to believe. . this means tht when they get into the g ground with water, they move readi i in across the environment. they are now found routinely in stream samples as well as well samples across the unitited s states. >> birds like swifts and swallows depend on insects as a food source. if insects are killed in their breeding ground, usually a body of water, birds are depriveved of fooood.
>> the concentrations of the neonics in our waterways are sufficient to kill the aquatic invertebrate life on which these birds depend. >> in canada, where neonicotinoids are widely used on crops, dr. christy morrissey is also finding high levels of wetland contamination. she focuses her research in canada's breadbasket, the prairie pothole region of saskatchewan, where agricultural land is laced with potholes, small temporary ponds fed by snowmelt and rain. >> in 2013 we found up to 90% of the ponds that we sampled in spring, even before the farmers were out seeding, had detectable levels of neonics in them. but our peak concentrations occurred after seeding, not surprising, particularly after rainfall events, at levels that were, you know, upwards of, uh,
3 parts per billion, which is well known to affect aquatic insects. >> with over 40% of the cropland in canada's prairies treated with neonicotinoids, the impact on aquatic insects and the animimals ththat rely on them r food could be significant. dr. morrissesey's study y is the first to look into this issue in canada. >> we have a field study that's trying to understand how neonicotinoids potentially get into wetlands and whether or not they affect aquatic invertebrates, which are the base of the food chain for all kinds of other wildlife species, and in particular, birds. so we're trying to link these 3 different things, um, from the--from the pesticide on the field to the wetlands to the bugs, and ultimately to the rds. we've found that neonicotinoids across the board have a range of toxicity for the different insect species. but for a certain group, and particularly the mayflies
and the midges, these species are extremely sensitive to neonicotinoids. >> the chicks, the young birds, need that supply of insects. as do the, uh, the female birds, the hens, when they're laying their eggs. they need that high protein source. and therere's se critical points in birds' l life where insects are key and critical. and i if the--the amount, the availability of insects is reduced, it has been shown that that affects reproduction. >> so we put nest boxes up in different sites, some that are uncontaminated, that have no pesticide use and in sites that are more agriciculturally intensiveve that have extensive use of neonicotinoids. >> morrissey is only a year and a half into a 4-year study, but is already starting to see some alarming effects. >> the birds are lower body mass or got poor body condition at some of these agriculturally
intensive sites. so we know that there isis some link or r some correlation n between how well e birds are dodoing in terms of their physiology and their health and their body condition and how many bugs or how abundant the bugs are. and that seems to relate well with the, uh, presence and levels of contamination in these ponds. >> there have been few studies to date o on how neonics affect ocean life. this is an area of specialization for dr. craig downs, and what he is learning is troubling. >> for example, imidacloprid can affect crab larvae as s low as 5050 parts per quadrillion. it affects ththeir mitochondria at this level, so that it's a mitochondrial poison. it can affect their muscles. if the mitochondriaa are dadamaged in e muscles, it can cauause paralys.
it also causes immune suppression in these crabs. meaning that they are much more susceptptible to bacterial infections and fungal infections when co-exposeded with imidacloprid.. >> craig downs also studies the impact of imidacloprid on sea urchins. >> neonicotinoids cause dna damage in sea urchin sperm as lowow as 500 parts per trillio. it causes s developmental abnormalities as low as 5 parts per trillion. it means that they're a mutagen. um, it meanss there's a d direct t threat to e rreproduductive fitntness of the entire biodiversity of marine environments. if you have damage to sperm or if you have damage to eggs,s, the next generation will not be as fit or might not come into existenence at all. um, so it threaeatens sterility. >> the meso-american reef stretches 700 miles from the northern tip of mexico's yucatan
peninsula to honduras. it ihohome ta wiwideiversisi of marinlilife. d drdr. wns foundtt is ontatamited wiwi neococotinos lalargy as a a result runoffrom gricultul fields >> years ag a coraleef orgasm-widide rvey was conducted to measure themomount of p pescides that coulde foundn atat lst 22 2 ral reef orgasms, rananng from corals toueueen cch t to numbererf coalal reefishsheswhat w w disvevered s ththatut of f l th s sampl thahat colleleed, 68 of ththe mples that we collected were contaminated with imidaclopririd. 53% of the sasas we collllected were contamiminad with fipipronil, which is anothr systemic pesticide. so the level of contaminationon on a coraral reef,f,specially y the second-largesest barrier reef in the world,d, is pretty disturbi.
>> if neonics harm animals, what about p people? in human surrogates like rats and mice, neonics are linked to a wide range of disorders. and in human blood studies, they are linked t to dna damage and cell mutations. federal agencies like the environmental protection agency are really supposed to be, um, managingng these insecticides in a way that causes minimal harm to humans and other animals. >> statarting in the 1990s,, agency scientists were raising red flags about the mobility, the persistence, the toxicity of these neonicic products, includi t the effecects on pollinators and other wildlife. >> epa documents show agency scientists knew imidacloprid is highly toxic to songbirds,
aquatic invertebrates, and honeybees as early as 1993. yet epa allowed imidacloprid on the u.s. market a year later. after decades of exposure,hehe consequenceces epa scientntistse warned about are now confirmed by the task force on systemic pescides. >> anunfortunately, these chemicaals are often, and i woud say most of the titime, released bbefore therere is adequauate informrmation to sw whether they are harmrmful in the e environm. i i think neoninicotinoids arara prprime example e of that. >> epa assesses risk posed by pesticides prior to their release on the market. safety studies are typically conducted and paid for by pesticide manufacturers on their own product. epa says its decisions are informed by the best science available. in addition to studies by manufacturers, epa scientists review pesticide
studies from peer-reviewed scientific journals and data from a wide variety of sources when they are available. but studies on pesticide safety that come out after a pesticide is sn the markeket may not be evaluatd by epa ununtil a peicicide comes up for reviview, a process that can take longs 15 y yea. farmers like drew stabler of laytonsville, maryland say that neonics can be used safely and are indispensable to their business. >> well, i think that any product that's on the mararket s been tested and proven to do a job, a and we haveaith in that process. myself as a farmer, i've been farming 50, 60 years. i've been lucky enough to make a living doing what i like to do. and wtry to usese everything that's been tested and approved
and recommended at certain times and how much. we do that both for the benenefit of the environment and the benefit of our pocketbook. you keep hearing about extra people in the world that need to be fed, so we can't back off on what our proroductin abilitieies are. we feel we have to keep improving our production abilities. and some of these products will contribute too that. >> the reason thatat we're worod about neonicototinoids specificalally is because e th'e being used at an unprecedented scale. >> essentially, it seems to me the agri-chemical industry has persuaded everyone that they need these products as an insurance against a pest outbreak in their crop. but actually, most of the time these pests aren't there. so you're insuring against something which is never gonna happen. >> they have a real impact on natural enemies of the crop pests. we can cause secondary
pest outbreaks because these chemicals are so efficient at killing the predators and the parasites of the crop pests. perhaps 7070% of the neonicotinoids used on soybeans in a seed treatment are not needed. there's no pest t tt they're controlling.g. so if we just use them only when they were needed, we could e eliminae insecticidide use overer milliof acres. >> many people would say we need pesticides to grow the food to feed the growi w world, the human population, and that maybe it's a necessary evil to sacrifice some wildlife along the way. fine. so you then look to see, to try to weigh up the damage that neonicotinoids seem to be doing against the benefit we get from them in terms of increased crop yield. and amazingly, it turns out there's virtually no evidence that they're actually effective. so there have been a whole sway of studies, particularly from
north america, come out in the last year or two where they've simply grown crops with and without seed dressing and find that they get exactly the same yield without the seed dressing as they do with it. > some actionsns are beingngn totourb the use e of neonicscs.n europee, the european union banned 3 neononics for a a perif o o years in 2013.3. the ban targets s neonics used o on plan andnd cereals attraractive to polnanators. in the u united states, the saving america's pollinators act was introduced in congress in 2013. earl blumenauer was one of the sponsors of the bill. >> what we're attempting to do with this legislatition is blow a whistle. stop moving forwaward with the products within the next 6 months that has this potential exceedingly damaging effect and prohibit their use until we'rre able to follow through on the researcrch to pre
that thehey're safe. >> but t congressional action is unlikely any time soon. in 2014, neonics were banned by the cities of eugene, oregon and spokane, washington on municipal property. the u.s. fish and wildlife service annonounced pls to ban neonics from all wildlife reffuges by 202016. and ththe we house launched an initiative to strengthen federal action to improve pollinator research and to protect pollinator habitat. >> there are things that we can't control or not easily rregulate, things lilike climate change, even habibitat loss are things that we can't control. but things like pesticides we can. >> well, nature is pretty good at fixing itseself. but then tht assumes that you're going to remove the pressures that we're putting on it now. >> we depend on all these things. we depend on bees to pollinate our crops, on worms