Thursday, March 6, 2014

Planting Pesticides

      We are approaching spring in the Northern Hemisphere which means planting seeds, seedlings or bedding plants for gardeners and farmers.  Unfortunately, many of the seeds, seedlings and plants sold to unsuspecting consumers in stores have been pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides at much higher doses than are used on farms, where levels of neonicotinoid use are already raising concerns among beekeepers and scientists.

     Much of the present day pesticide use is systemic in nature which means it is not externally applied but exists within the tissues of the plant.  Every part of the plant becomes toxic including the morning dew on the leaves which bees drink.  In the case of genetic modification scientists can take the gene of a pesticidal protein, and introduce the gene into the plant's own genetic material. Then the plant manufactures the substance that destroys the pest. The protein and its genetic material, but not the plant itself, are regulated by EPA.  The plant becomes a pesticide.
     “It is ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

      The worldwide production of seeds is now monopolized by a few agrochemical corporations.  Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta now control over half the worldwide distribution of seeds.  Monsanto has established cross-licensing agreements for its transgenic patents with every single other company in the mix, while Dow has agreements with all except for Bayer. And Syngenta has agreements with Dow, Monsanto, and DuPont, while BASF has agreements with Dow and Monsanto.  Monsanto has purchased over 50 seed companies since l996 (Monsanto Seed Companies).  Some misconceptions of genetic modification and agrochemical use are that they are necessary to feed the world's growing population.  In a recent U.S.D.A report (U.S.D.A. Report) researchers stated "Over the first 15 years of commercial use, GMO seeds have not been shown to definitively increase yield potentials, and "in fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties." 

     Insecticide spraying has been reduced because the genetically modified plant is now a pesticide but the U.S.D.A reports herbicide use on GMO crops is rising.  The report states. Herbicide use on GMO corn increased from around 1.5 pounds per planted acre in 2001 to more than 2.0 pounds per planted acre in 2010. Herbicide use on non-GMO corn has remained relatively level during that same time frame.  The over reliance on glyphosate has translated to an increase in weed resistance, which makes crop production much harder. Glyphosate is the chief ingredient in Roundup herbicide sold by Monsanto, and its use has translated to the glyphosate resistance seen in 14 weed species and biotypes in the United States, according to the U.S.D.A report. The overuse of glyphosate has also endangered the Monarch Butterfly population.  Lincoln Brower, a leading entomologist at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, wrote that "the migration is definitely proving to be an endangered biological phenomenon".  "The main culprit," he wrote is now genetically modified "herbicide-resistant corn and soybean crops and herbicides in the USA", which "leads to the wholesale killing of the monarch's principal food plant, common milkweed" (Monarch Butterfly).

      In addition because of genetic modification and the monopolization of the world seed market seed prices have grown dramatically.

     In a recent comprehensive United Nations report they stated "Farming in rich and poor nations alike should shift from monoculture towards greater varieties of crops, reduced use of fertilizers and other inputs, greater support for small-scale farmers, and more locally focused production and consumption of food."  The report, "Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate (United Nations Report)" included contributions from more than 60 international experts. 
      With the knowledge that genetic engineering of food offers no benefit to the consumer; genetically engineered crops are contaminating organic farms and the environment (American Farmers sue over contamination by GE SeedFarmer loses organic status by gm contamination); 

Agrochemical usage is increasing along with weed and pest resistance;  there are studies revealing the increased longevity of agrochemicals in the environment and resulting accumulation; adverse effects of this accumulation of agrochemicals (Rounup in 75% of air and water samples Insecticide Impact on Birds )  why is the worlds' food production controlled by a handful of agrochemical corporations pursuing a future of total genetic modification of our food supply and increased usage of agrochemicals? Simple, they own the patents on the genetically modified seeds and agrochemicals.  A patented food production system maximizes profits for the agrochemical corporations.

     What can we do to counter this unhealthy corporate control of our food and plant supply? Support organic food production by buying organic produce, seeds and plants and growing your own food.  Many of the seeds, seedlings and plants in stores have been pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides and are not labelled.

     Because there is no clear labeling to indicate the presence of neonics in nursery plants, customers may unknowingly purchase pre-treated “bee-friendly” plants with the intent of providing habitats for bees and other pollinators, but end up causing them harm.  The EU has suspended popular neonics and a majority of the UK’s largest home improvement retailers, including Homebase, B&Q and Wickes, have made public commitments to no longer sell products containing pesticides linked to declining bee populations.  A new study (Gardeners Beware Report) revealed that 7 out of 13 garden plants purchased at top retailers in Washington, Minneapolis and San Francisco contained neonicotinoid pesticides produced by Bayer CropScience and Syngenta.  The lethal and sub lethal effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees has been well documented (Seed treatment harmful to Honey Bees, Pesticide Cocktail Toxic for BeesInsecticides and Bees). 

     The video below is of a study showing the effect of pesticides (neonicotinoids) on bee navigation.

     Please don't buy seeds or plants that are genetically modified or contain agrochemicals and sign this petition asking Home Depot and Lowes's to remove neonicotinoid pesticides from their shelves and cease purchasing plants from nurseries that use neonicotinoid pesticides in the potting soil. 

     I find there to be an increasing number of petitions in the world and have wondered about their usefulness.  I believe they do work.  Politicians respond to two things.  Money from corporations and pressure from voters.  If the pressure is great enough and the politician does not respond accordingly they won't be reelected and subsequently won't receive corporate funding.  The pressure has to reach a level where it is reported on by mainstream media.  This is how Europeans got the EU to ban neonicotinoids.
     Please sign the petition here.
Home Depot and Lowe's: You must stop selling bee-killing pesticides! 

Scientist, feminist, ecologist and author, Vandana Shiva discussing the future of food and seeds.


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