Quantcast

Study Shows Some Pesticides More Bee-Safe Than Others, But Are Any Pesticides Eco-Friendly?

Animals

A study published Thursday in Current Biology is being hailed in a University of Exeter press release as a major "breakthrough" in developing bee-friendly insecticides. But some environmentalists think the research is asking the wrong questions to begin with.


Pesticide Action Network UK Director Keith Tyrell told DW that focusing only on bee-safe pesticides was misguided, since insect loss also threatened overall biodiversity.

"We need to find a way to change our agricultural model, and switch to non-chemical pest control methods that work with nature. These techniques exist and are effective," Tyrell told DW.

The study, conducted by the University of Exeter, Rothamsted Research and Bayer AG, isolated the enzymes in bees that determine their sensitivity to different neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are controversial pesticides that have been restricted in the EU since 2013 due to their impact on bee populations.

While previous research had indicated that bees responded better to certain neonicotinoids because they could metabolize them faster, the researchers were able to isolate the subfamily of enzymes called cytochrome P450 responsible for breaking down neonicotinoids.

The subfamily, called CYP9Q, metabolizes thiacloprid well and imidacloprid poorly, the study found.

University of Exeter research-team-leader Chriss Bass hoped the findings would help develop bee-safe pesticides.

"Identifying these key enzymes provides valuable tools to screen new pesticides early in their development to see if bees can break them down," he said in the University of Exeter press release.

However, it should be noted that Bayer, which manufactures neonicotinoids, helped fund the study, and Bass seemed almost more concerned with the manufacturer's bottom line than he did with the health of the bees.

"It can take a decade and $260 million to develop a single pesticide, so this knowledge can help us avoid wasting time and money on pesticides that will end up with substantial use restrictions due to intrinsic bee toxicity," he wrote.

Just because bees can break down thiacloprid doesn't mean it's entirely healthy for them to do so, Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex told DW. He pointed to research he conducted in 2017 showing the pesticide did hurt bumblebee colonies.

"Despite the lower toxicity to bees compared to some other neonicotinoid pesticides, there is evidence that thiacloprid use does harm bumblebee nests under field conditions," he told DW. "It is less toxic, but applied at a much higher rate."

However, Lund University researcher Maj Rundlöf, who published a 2015 study showing neonicotinoids hurt bee populations, said it was helpful to distinguish between more and less harmful products.

"All neonicotinoids are not the same," she told ScienceNews. "It's a bit unrealistic to damn a whole group of pesticides."

But Tyrell's point, that even insecticides that take out only their target can have disastrous consequences for ecosystems, was born out by the results of two recent French studies reported by The Guardian Tuesday. The studies found that in, the past decade and a half, populations of once-common bird species like the Eurasian skylark and ortolan bunting had declined by at least one third in the French countryside. Researchers hypothesized that the decline is likely due to pesticides that kill the insects birds depend on for food.

"There are hardly any insects left, that's the number one problem," Vincent Bretagnolle, an ecologist at the Centre for Biological Studies in Chize, told The Guardian.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Ketura Persellin

Global consumption of beef, lamb and goat is expected to rise by almost 90 percent between 2010 and 2050. But that doesn't mean you need to eat more meat. In fact, recent news from Washington gives you even less confidence in your meat: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of line workers.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Kaitlyn Berkheiser

While enjoying an occasional alcoholic beverage is unlikely to harm your health, drinking in excess can have substantial negative effects on your body and well-being.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
MStudioImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Backpacking is an exciting way to explore the wilderness or travel to foreign countries on a budget.

Read More Show Less
Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less