It pays to pollinate in Minnesota.
The yearly count of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico, released Wednesday, shows an increase of 144 percent from last year's count and is the highest count since 2006. That's good news for a species whose numbers had fallen in recent years, but conservationists say the monarch continues to need Endangered Species Act protection.
The count of 6.05 hectares of occupied forest is up from 2.48 hectares last winter. The increase is attributable to favorable weather during the spring and summer breeding seasons and during the fall migration. Monarchs have lost an estimated 165 million acres of breeding habitat in the U.S. to herbicide spraying and development.
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As evidence builds that neonicotinoids harm bees and other pollinators and bodies like the EU move to ban them, the agricultural sector is casting about for something to replace what is currently the most-used type of insecticide worldwide.
By Jessica A. Knoblauch
It's been a particularly terrible summer for bees. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is allowing the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor back on the market. And just a few weeks prior, the USDA announced it is suspending data collection for its annual honeybee survey, which tracks honeybee populations across the U.S., providing critical information to farmers and scientists.
A honey bee alights on a cherry blossom in Stockton, California.
CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICE
Beekeeper Jeff Anderson says the Trump administration's anti-bee and anti-science efforts are hurting his business.
CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICE
Anderson minds his colonies in a California cherry orchard.
CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICE
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By Dan Nosowitz
But a new study from the University of Guelph finds that honeybees aren't the only non-pest creatures that are coming into contact with the pesticides.
By John F. Tooker
Planting season for corn and soybeans across the U.S. corn belt is drawing to a close. As they plant, farmers are participating in what is likely to be one of the largest deployments of insecticides in U.S. history.
Almost every field corn seed planted this year in the U.S.—approximately 90 million acres' worth—will be coated with neonicotinoid insecticides, the most widely used class of insecticides in the world. The same is true for seeds in about half of U.S. soybeans—roughly 45 million acres and nearly all cotton—about 14 million acres. In total, by my estimate, these insecticides will be used across at least 150 million acres of cropland, an area about the size the Texas.
The study, published Wednesday in Molecular Ecology, looked at the impact of two neonicotinoid pesticides on bumblebee populations and found that they impacted genes involved in a variety of important biological processes.
By Daniel Raichel
As massive numbers of bees and other pollinators keep dying across the globe, study after study continues to connect these deaths to neonicotinoid pesticides (A.K.A. "neonics"). With the science piling up, and other countries starting to take critical pollinator-saving action, here's a quick primer on all things neonics:
By Sue Branford and Thais Borges
With the ruralist lobby now in control of key sectors of the federal government, Brazil is rapidly approving new pesticides for use, some of which critics say are either unnecessary or excessively toxic. During the first 100 days of the Jair Bolsonaro administration, the Agriculture Ministry authorized the registration of 152 pesticides, putting Brazil on course to authorize more pesticides this year than in any previous year. Brazil is already the world's largest user of pesticides.
An employee from Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources surveys a heap of emptied pesticide containers on a farm.
IBAMA / Mongabay
Pro-Pesticide Government vs. Environmentalists<p>Despite the rapid rise in authorizations, Bolsonaro's agriculture minister, Tereza Cristina, said "<a href="https://deolhonosruralistas.com.br/2019/04/10/no-centesimo-dia-governo-autoriza-mais-31-agrotoxicos-metade-deles-extremamente-toxicos/" target="_blank">there is no general liberation</a>" of new pesticide registrations. According to her ministry, the products will merely give farmers a greater choice of existing pesticides, and access to new chemicals and there is <a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2019/01/22/politica/1548111806_421640.html" target="_blank">no reason to be concerned</a>: "The use [of pesticides] is completely safe, provided they are applied as instructed, within a context of good farming practice and with the use of individual protective equipment," said the government.</p><p>Events within Brazil seem to deny the truth of Cristina's claims. Brazil has a <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/02/brazils-fundamental-pesticide-law-under-attack/" target="_blank">higher per capita consumption of pesticides</a> than any other country in the world — 7.3 liters per year per person — and it is already facing a serious problem with <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/08/brazils-pesticide-poisoning-problem-poses-global-dilemma-say-critics/" target="_blank">pesticide intoxication</a>.</p><p>According to Guilherme Franco Netto, an Environment, Health and Sustainability Specialist at the <a href="https://portal.fiocruz.br/en" target="_blank">Oswaldo Cruz Foundation</a>, one of the world's top public health research institutions, about 100,000 cases of intoxication are recorded in Brazil each year. According to Alan Tygel, from the Permanent Campaign Against Pesticides and for Life, <a href="https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2019/04/03/desde-o-golpe-contra-dilma-12-mil-novos-agrotoxicos-foram-liberados-no-brasil/" target="_blank">this figure seriously underestimates</a> the real situation, as many rural workers fail to report pesticide intoxications.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQ0MTk5MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDgwOTczMn0.OXZ7eq4pTu-I7g7GLx_SESdd6eUOLBtoyrAts1Uty5g/img.jpg?width=980" id="1b634" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b525c195da072e3157f74c74fe658a8f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Brazil: Pesticide Poisonings in Rural Areas<p>In July 2018, the human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/07/20/brazil-pesticide-poisonings-rural-areas" target="_blank">published a report</a> documenting acute intoxication at seven locations in Brazil, including indigenous communities, schools and quilombolas — communities of runaway slave descendants.</p><p>"Pesticides sprayed in large plantations intoxicate children in schoolrooms in many parts of Brazil," said <a href="https://www.hrw.org/about/people/richard-pearshouse" target="_blank">Richard Pearshouse</a>, assistant director of the environmental and human rights division of Human Rights Watch. But the report found that many local inhabitants were too frightened to speak out. </p><p>In five of the seven impacted communities, people said they were afraid of suffering reprisals if they complained. In 2010 a rural farmer <a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/07/20/you-dont-want-breathe-poison-anymore/failing-response-pesticide-drift-brazils" target="_blank">was shot dead</a> after putting pressure on local government to forbid aerial spraying of pesticides — a common application practice in Brazil, even though it allows wind-carried toxic sprays to settle far from crops in surrounding communities and natural areas.</p><div id="216f1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9UT36P1576661817"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1020232207225573376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Brazil: Pesticide Poisonings in Rural Areas https://t.co/bWoQmksz4L</div> — Human Rights Watch (@Human Rights Watch)<a href="https://twitter.com/hrw/statuses/1020232207225573376">1532077287.0</a></blockquote></div>
New Formulations Raise Alarms<p>Many of the requests given the go-ahead this year are for new formulations of already authorized pesticides."Once the initial manufacturer loses its patent, other companies start requesting registration so they can use the [same] active ingredients to produce new agricultural products," <a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2019/01/22/politica/1548111806_421640.html" target="_blank">said</a> Murilo Souza, from the State University of Goiás.</p><p>Leonardo Melgarejo, vice-president of the Brazilian Association of Agroecology, <a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2019/01/22/politica/1548111806_421640.html" target="_blank">believes</a> that this practice is harmful as it will inevitably lead to a big increase in consumption nationwide. "We are approving several variations of the same pesticide," he said. "We're heading for a situation in which farmers will be able to 'self-medicate,' with two pesticide shops on every block." Little research has been done to see how hundreds of various pesticides might interact to become more damaging.</p><p>The torrent of new approvals is also making it easier for Brazil's farmers to gain access to toxic pesticides with which the global community has serious concern. One such case is that of 2,4-D, an active ingredient in controversial defoliant Agent Orange, used by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and whose use is increasingly being controlled in other countries, after the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified it in 2015 as "<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-herbicides-2-4-d/who-unit-finds-24-d-herbicide-possibly-causes-cancer-in-humans-idUSKBN0P22FK20150623" target="_blank">possibly carcinogenic to humans</a>."</p>
Monsanto Lasso herbicide to be sprayed on food crops showing proper protective gear.
Controversial Pesticides Approved for First Time in Brazil<p>Several of the pesticides authorized this year will be entirely new to Brazil. Some have already been classified by Brazil's National Health Surveillance Agency as "<a href="https://deolhonosruralistas.com.br/2019/04/10/no-centesimo-dia-governo-autoriza-mais-31-agrotoxicos-metade-deles-extremamente-toxicos/" target="_blank">extremely toxic</a>." These include: mancozeb, a broad-spectrum fungicide used in agriculture and horticulture; the fungicide fluazinam; and the insecticide chlorpyrifos. In 2018 the Pest Management Regulatory Agency <a href="https://www.realagriculture.com/2018/06/mancozeb-latest-pesticide-to-face-significant-restrictions-following-re-evaluation/" target="_blank">banned the use</a> of mancozeb in Canada, except for foliar use on potatoes, due to "unacceptable risks to human health." The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/09/us/politics/chlorpyrifos-pesticide-ban-epa-court.html" target="_blank">banned the use</a> of chlorpyrifos in 2018 after its use had been associated with development disabilities in children.</p><p>One particularly controversial newly approved chemical is sulfoxaflor. This pesticide was one of several believed to have caused an outbreak in Brazil of colony collapse disorder — the catastrophic sudden disappearance of worker bees from a bee colony, leading to the death of hives. <a href="https://reporterbrasil.org.br/2019/03/apicultores-brasileiros-encontram-meio-bilhao-de-abelhas-mortas-em-tres-meses/?fbclid=IwAR2zaBCsYwVaoATgcPnAJJCx9FMCZ6U2YMaqSR6GncNT4DSQTZyLUrSnFmQ" target="_blank">According to a survey</a> carried out by Agência Pública and Repórter Brasil, half a billion bees were found dead in four Brazilian states in the first quarter of 2019 — a staggeringly large die off posing a threat to the pollination of fruits and vegetables and to native vegetation.</p>
Pesticide Deregulation in the Works<p>Environmental activist Alan Tygel <a href="https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2019/04/03/desde-o-golpe-contra-dilma-12-mil-novos-agrotoxicos-foram-liberados-no-brasil/" target="_blank">believes</a> that the rapid rise in the number of pesticide authorizations is directly linked to the growing power of the <em>bancada ruralista</em> agribusiness lobby in Congress. This lobby, he said, made its support for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 dependent on government backing for pro-agribusiness measures. "From then on, the counterweight that came from progressive sectors, from family farming and from agroecology, was lost, and today the ruralist agenda faces fewer obstacles in its drive to have more pesticides approved and to push through more permissive laws," Tygel <a href="https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2019/04/03/desde-o-golpe-contra-dilma-12-mil-novos-agrotoxicos-foram-liberados-no-brasil/" target="_blank">said.</a> The Bolsonaro presidential campaign greatly benefited from ruralist support, and it greatly helped sweep the former Army captain and legislator to victory last October.</p><p>The next goal of the ruralist agenda — more permissive laws — may well get a major boost this year with congressional approval of <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/02/brazils-fundamental-pesticide-law-under-attack/" target="_blank">PL 6299/2002</a>, dubbed as the "poison package" by critics. The legislation, which would greatly deregulate pesticides, was endorsed by a Chamber of Deputies commission in June 2018 and it now awaits plenary debate. The Temer government <a href="https://www.cartacapital.com.br/blogs/brasil-debate/entenda-os-2-projetos-sobre-alimentos-que-tramitam-no-congresso" target="_blank">justified the bill</a>, presented to Congress by then Agriculture Minister and dedicated ruralist, <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2017/07/soy-king-blairo-maggi-wields-power-over-amazons-fate-say-critics/" target="_blank">Blairo Maggi</a>, claiming that the country desperately needed to simplify the complicated process of getting new pesticides authorized in order to help farmers.</p><p>But Castro Moreira, president of the prestigious <a href="http://www.sbpcnet.org.br/site/en/a-sbpc/about-us.php" target="_blank">Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science</a>, representing more than 100 scientific societies, disagreed strongly. He <a href="http://portal.sbpcnet.org.br/noticias/sbpc-repudia-aprovacao-do-pacote-do-veneno-na-comissao-especial-da-camara/" target="_blank">said</a> at the time that the bill, "could have very serious consequences for the health of the Brazilian population and the environment … Its approval would be a backward step, because it follows the logic of mechanized agriculture, with high investments in fertilizers and pesticides, which is an outmoded way of thinking, dating from the end of the Second World War."</p>
The move completely bans the outdoor uses of three neonicotinoids, or neonics, across the European Union. They include Bayer CropScience's imidacloprid, Syngenta's thiamethoxam and clothianidin developed by Takeda Chemical Industries and Bayer CropScience.
More than 40 percent of the world's insects could go extinct in the next few decades, according to a report that lead author Francisco Sánchez-Bayo told CNN was the first global review of the threats facing the class that makes up 70 percent of earth's animals.
A third of insects are endangered species, and they are going extinct at a rate eight times that of birds, mammals and reptiles. That amounts to a loss of 2.5 percent of insect mass every year over the last three decades.