A recent study from Japan’s Osaka University aims to help protect pollinators from harm by studying how insects metabolize pesticides.
Researchers sliced fruit flies into very thin layers with a special technique developed to keep their delicate features in tact. They used a laser to glean tissue from the layers, which they analyzed to see how Imidacloprid-a, a common agricultural pesticide, spread through the fruit fly bodies.
Imidacloprid-a is one of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which have received a lot of negative attention for being linked to declining bee populations. France recently banned five types of neonicotenoids, including imidacloprid, in an effort to protect pollinators.
Scientific studies have yielded mixed results on the actual effects of neonicotinoids on bees, however. Some have found that bees can get addicted to the nicotine derivatives, and claim they kill. Others say that only certain species are affected, and that concentration levels in the field are insufficient to do real harm.
This report, published in the journal Analytical Sciences, may help bring clarity to the confused issue. It is the first of its kind, due to the exceptional difficulty of preparing and imaging detailed tissue specimens of fruit flies. The researchers hope others will use their technique to look further into pesticide metabolism in the future.
Glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup, was classified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015. Following that declaration, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chemist Narong Chamkasem and University of Iowa chemist John Vargo began testing for residue in Iowa’s honey. Their research found Glyphosate levels in honey as high as 653 parts per billion (ppb), which is ten times the level of Glyphosate residue limit of 50 ppb in the European Union. Most of Iowa’s honey had between 23 ppb and 123 ppb of residue, whereas previous testing only found a maximum of 107 ppb Glyphosate in honey. The report stated, “According to recent reports, there has been a dramatic increase in the usage of these herbicides, which are of risk to both human health and the environment.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not yet established a tolerance for the weed killer in honey. In a statement, EPA said, “EPA is evaluating the necessity of establishing tolerances for inadvertent residues of pesticides in honey. EPA has examined the glyphosate residue levels found in honey and has determined that glyphosate residues at those levels do not raise a concern for consumers.”
The Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticides filed a lawsuit against one of Iowa’s top honey producers, Sioux Honey Association Cooperative for the prevalence of Glyphosate in their products. The honey, called Sue Bee Honey is labeled as “pure,” “100% natural,” and “All natural.” Prosecutors contend that such language is false advertising given the amount of pesticide residue found in Sue Bee Honey during the FDA’s study.
Darren Cox, president of the American Honey Association, said, “It’s a chemical intrusion, a chemical trespass into our product.” He added, “We have really no way of controlling it. I don’t see an area for us to put our bees. We can’t put them in the middle of the desert. They need to be able to forage in ag areas. There are no ag areas free of this product.”
Jay Feldman is Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Sioux Honey Association Cooperative. He said, “Until U.S. regulatory agencies prohibit Monsanto and other manufacturers of glyphosate from selling pesticides that end up in the food supply, we need to protect consumers by demanding truth and transparency in labeling.”
Dorchester County officials aerially sprayed a pesticide called naled early Sunday morning, resulting in the death of millions of honeybees and other pollinators. Due to concern regarding four travel-related cases of Zika reported in the county, the chemical was sprayed over 15 square miles in order to eradicate mosquitoes that may further spread the virus. Naled has been used in the United States for over 50 years but has a contested reputation nationwide. The pesticide was banned in the European Union in 2012 after it was deemed to have a “potential and unacceptable risk” to human health and the environment. Conversely, naled has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1959 and is sprayed over 16 million acres of U.S. land each year.
The scene painted by beekeeper Juanita Stanely was bleak. “On Saturday, it was total energy, millions of bees foraging, pollinating, making honey for winter,” she said in an interview with CNN on Monday, “Today, it stinks of death. Maggots and other insects are feeding on the honey and the baby bees who are still in the hives. It’s heartbreaking.”
Stanley, co-owner of Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply, said that she lost 46 hives and nearly 3 million bees on Sunday with no warning. She explained, “…when they sprayed by trucks; they told me in advance, and we talked about it so I could protect my bees. But nobody called me about the aerial spraying; nobody told me at all.” The pesticide application was the first aerial spray in the area in over 14 years. Dorchester County Administrator Jason Ward said that attempts were made to notify the public about the aerial spraying through an alert on its website posted two days before spraying. He added that county officials also reached out to beekeepers that were on the local mosquito control registry, but that one country employee failed to follow notification procedure.”He made a mistake in terms of going down his list, and failed to call,” Ward said.
Had she been warned, Stanley said that she would have told officials to do their spraying at night.” ‘Do it at night when bees are done foraging,’ I would have told them,” she said, tears filling her eyes, “But they sprayed at 8 a.m. Sunday, and all of my bees were out, doing their work by then.” Though county officials have publicly apologized, they maintain that the pesticide was used as directed. “We followed that recommendation,” said Ward, “which is also the policy laid out by the state, using a pesticide the state has approved for use.”
Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a bee researcher at the University of Maryland, said that there are ways to eradicate infected mosquitoes without killing invaluable pollinators. He said the issue reaches beyond honey bees, “If you’re killing honeybees, you’re killing a lot of other non-honeybee pollinators, too, and those populations could take a long time to recover.”
The report – Kids on the Frontline – assesses dozens of independent studies by agriculturists, chemists, and other scientific experts. While the report focuses on issues nationwide, it finds that children who attend schools located near agricultural fields are more likely to be exposed to pesticides linked to various cancers as well as brain development. The report finds that rates of childhood leukemia and brain tumors nationwide have risen more than 40 percent over the last half century while childhood cancer rates in Iowa increased steadily between 1975 and 2012.
Carmen Black, Iowa Organizer for PAN, hosted a panel discussion at the Iowa City Public Library to discuss ways that children in the Hawkeye State are affected by pesticides. The panel consisted of Black; Mark Quee, Farm Manager at Scattergood Friends School; Michelle Kenyon,Program Director at the Iowa City-based Field to Family; and Kent Boyum, Board Member of the Iowa Organic Association.
Various Iowa groups have come together to educate the public about the dangers of pesticide drift and to push for legislation to prevent it. Several other Iowa City and state groups have worked to address pesticide issues at the local level.
This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a popular pesticide thought to harm bees, which may not be as effective at warding off pests as previously thought. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.
Transcript: Bee pesticide
A pesticide thought to harm bee populations may be less effective for pest control than previously thought.
This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.
The effectiveness of neonicotinoid, a class of pesticides used on nearly half of soybean crops nationwide, is being called into question by a recent EPA analysis. The study concludes that the treatment provides “little or no overall benefits to soybean production in most situations.”
The pesticide is one of the factors researchers like Mary Harris, of Iowa State University, suspect may be responsible for dramatically falling bee populations over the last ten years. While the pesticide can’t kill bees directly, it can contaminate pollen and contribute to loss of bees over winter. Farmers depend on bees and other insects to pollinate their crops.
For more information about pesticides and other crop treatments, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.
From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.
The Environmental Working Group recently blogged about apples and DPA, the pesticide applied to apples once they’re harvested to protect them during storage.
DPA is an antioxidant that slows the development of black patches on the skins of picked apples in storage.
This chemical has caused a debate in both the US and EU on whether or not DPA should continue to be used on our produce.
The EU recently restricted DPA to 0.1 part per million, because people would not be at risk with concentrations that low, but some apples, although not sprayed with DPA, can have trace amounts of the pesticide if stored in a warehouse that once used it.
Although the EPA must review pesticides every 15 years to make sure there is no harm to humans, they haven’t reviewed DPA in 16 years.
Purchasing organic apples, organic apple juice, or organic apple sauce, is an easy change to make to reduce the risk of ingesting potentially harmful chemicals.
A University of Iowa faculty member is studying how contaminants move through the food chain, causing diseases in humans.
Hans-Joachim Lehmler, from the UI Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, is studying legacy pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and halogenated pesticides in the environment and how they impact human health.
PCB’s have been linked to cancer, autism, and hormone irregularities. Although their use was banned in the 1970’s, the pollutants are present in many bodies of water and can spread to humans in many ways, including consumption of fish.
By better understanding how organisms, like fish and humans, process PCBs, his team can determine how PCBs function in nature, ultimately protecting humans from their harmful effects.