Over the last few decades, scientists all over the world have been noticing dramatic declines in insect populations. Alarmed by these observations they decided to investigate, first the possible causes and then the matter itself, based on the assumption that the increasing worldwide use of a relatively new group of pesticides, the neonicotinoid insecticides might be responsible for the observed changes. Approximately five years ago, under the leadership of the biologist Dr. Maarten Bijleveld van Lexmond, the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides was formed to conduct research into the environmental impact of these systemic pesticides. This international Task Force has now produced a large-scale report on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and its effects on the biodiversity and ecosystems of the planet’s environment. The WIA the worldwide integrated assessment on neonicotinoid and fipronil insecticides. Neonics are systemic pesticides. Sprayed on the field and crops or applied in coated seeds, they invade the whole system of the plant and are therefore found in practically every cell of the treated crops. The leaves, flowers and even fruits of the treated plants bear the toxic chemicals delivering their poison not just to the so-called target pests, but to every creature feeding on these plants. Actually the majority of the pesticide doesn’t go into the crop at all and more than 90% of it goes elsewhere into the environmentand they’re really persistent in the environment. So, we know that the half-life, the time it takes for half of the compound to disappear, can be in the region of the years in soil so if you use it every year they accumulate, they are getting into soil, water, and ends into streams and so essentially we are contaminating the global environment with highly toxic and highly persistent chemicals. Research of the surface waters in the Netherlands shows that in 50% of the probes measured, the amount of toxins rise above the levels permitted in the EU. French researchers have found substantial amounts of neonics in the pollen and nectar of the flowering crops. This is clearly linked to the colony collapse disorder of bees observed worldwide. Well, there are two main points: as a chemist and an analyst I am looking to the contamination of the environment, as a toxicologist I am looking to the effects of this contamination on living systems. About chemistry we are able in this laboratory to detect very very small amounts of these neurotoxicants, and as toxicologists we are able to test this toxicant on drosophila, on bees and so on, so we are able to see the effect of such tiny amounts of neurotoxicants. I think that the only acceptable dose of these systemic pesticides is just nothing, zero. But these chemicals were also found in fruit, vegetables, cow milk and even honey meant for human consumption. The research in the UK indicates that the amounts of neonics found in the soil of the treated areas have been significantly increasing over the last six years due to the constant use of these chemicals. And these findings apply not just for the EU, but throughout the entire world. Neonics represent one-third of the insecticides market. In the Philippines one of the world’s largest producer of rice the practice of applying neonics is widely spread, affecting not only the huge agricultural areas in the north but throughout the entire country where neonics can be found in the so-called “sari” shops in the small towns and villages. On the island of Marinduque, a local cottage industry producing butterfly pupae and providing the world’s butterfly gardens with the most beautiful butterflies would be seriously endangered by the use
of neonicotinoid and fipronil insecticides. The people in Marinduque are actively involved in butterfly breeding and all the people’s productions are for export. The existing butterfly population in the wild is also affected by the pesticides, the systemic pesticides, and this butterflies in the wild are needed in the butterfly farming. All the people here in the rural areas depend on the butterflies and the continuous use of pesticides will destroy their livelihood. We are one of the mega biodiverse countries in the world and it’s very important for us to know the pesticides that may have impact on our biodiversity. We don’t want to lose any of these important species that we have, especially those that are only found here in the Philippines, because we are not aware that certain chemicals are being introduced into the country would have a negative effect and even fatal effect on the species, the local species that we have. These days many people are completely detached from nature. They buy their food in a supermarket. They live in a city. They don’t really understand or know much about the countryside and they didn’t realize that the biodiversity is vitally important for us. We can’t survive without it. Bees are really nice simple examples. Bees pollinate our crops, 75% of the crops that we eat are pollinated by insects, one type or another, mostly by bees so if we didn’t have those bees if we didn’t look after them than we won’t have most of the fruits that we like to eat, most of the vegetables we like to eat. We would be eating porridge, rice, bread, not much else. Life would be awful. The preventive worldwide use of the neonics in the fields in agriculture and horticulture forms a serious danger to biodiversity of insects and other invertebrates. This also extends to all other animal species including the vertebrates like birds and mammals depending in feeding on these insects and those drinking from waters delivering these toxins. One of the problems with this issue is
that you don’t even know if you need it. You don’t even know if you got a problem. If there will be a pest on your crop or not, you are basically treating 100% of your field with an insecticide while you don’t even know if you need it. It’s like taking antibiotics to avoid getting ill rather than when you are ill. If you overuse an antibiotic in that way, or in this instance an insecticide, than you are placing enormous selection pressure on your pest insects to become resistant inevitably. We are starting to see resistance to these pesticides in the pest insects. As a clear picture and scale of the environmental damage arises, industry tends to show that this is not the case, producing and funding research showing the opposite and claiming that the ban on neonics might have enormous economic implications. Not surprising, considering that neonics are now the most widely used insecticides in the world, with global sales over 2.6 billion US
dollars in 2011 alone. But these claims, as most of the pest management practices in general, seem to lack evidence and justification. It’s striking that industry’s research, the industry-funded research, which they carry out themselves or give large grants to certain academics to perform, almost invariably find no impact of these pesticides on bees or any other aspect of the environment. Most of the research today has been on honeybees. Whereas the vast majority of independent research finds completely the opposite, it finds really concerning effects of neonicotinoids on bees, birds, aquatic organism, whatever it might be. It is history repeating itself, as
parallels can be drawn to the early 1960’s when the destructive effect of the use
of DDT was simply ignored, in spite of the evidence at hand, awaiting
the ultimate scientific proof. In both its forms, powder and liquid, Pestroy means doomsday to wasp insects this new insect spray contains lots of DDT not just a little. The scientists of the Task Force
on Systemic Pesticides are convinced that WIA provides sufficient evidence of the environmental damage in the case of neonicotinoid and fipronil insecticides and that this should inevitably lead to the urgent policy decisions needed to remedy the present situation. Again here, in the Philippines, the first important step has been made to act on the scientific proof presented in the WIA. In Marinduque culturing butterflies and honeybees are major sources of livelihood. The Philippines is the butterfly centre of the world and Marinduque is the butterfly capital of the Philippines. For this vital information from WIA, in order to protect the green industry of our beloved province of Marinduque I, as governor, will ban totally the use of systemic pesticides and fipronil. Scientists can only do research, but they also worry. Stay informed and act on the information provided. www.tfsp.info