U.S. Annually Uses 388 Million Pounds of Potentially Fatal Pesticides Banned in the EU, China and Brazil
In all, that means that about one-in-ten American-used pesticides contain ingredients that are either banned, not approved or have an otherwise unknown status in the E.U., China and Brazil. Many of these pesticides have been linked to acute poisoning in the U.S., some of which are considered highly poisonous in high dosages and have been connected to lung damage, convulsions, respiratory failure, coma and even death.
"It's appalling the U.S. lags so far behind these major agricultural powers in banning harmful pesticides," said study author Nathan Donley, who is affiliated with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The fact that we're still using hundreds of millions of pounds of poisons other nations have wisely rejected as too risky spotlights our dangerously lax approach to phasing out hazardous pesticides."
The study focused on 13 pesticides that are currently approved in the U.S. but banned in at least two of the three other leading agricultural economics, though the researchers compared the approval status of a total of more than 500 pesticides used in outdoor applications. Of the 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides used across the nation in 2016, 322 million pounds had been banned or were being phased out in the E.U., compared with 40 million pounds in China and 26 million in Brazil.
"The USA is generally regarded as being highly regulated and having protective pesticide safeguards in place. This study contradicts that narrative and finds that in the last couple of decades, nearly all pesticide cancellations in the USA have been done voluntarily by the pesticide industry," said Donley. "Without a change in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) current reliance on voluntary mechanisms for cancellations, the USA will likely continue to lag behind its peers in banning harmful pesticides."
Though states like California and Washington have taken individual action towards the banning of certain pesticides, a majority of those still in use across much of the U.S. had not decreased in the last 25 years or had even stayed the same or increased in the last decade. Generally speaking, the studied pesticides are used to kill "problem" weeds, an issue that occurs in all four of the nation-states but doesn't explain why they are still so prevalent across the country.
Donley argues this lag in banning has to do with deficiencies in the pesticide regulatory process. Though the EPA is given authority to ban pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, the majority of cancellations comes from voluntary decisions made by pesticide producers following economic outcomes rather than in response to human or environmental health.
"Bans are the most effective way to prevent exposures to highly hazardous pesticides and can spur the transition to safer alternatives," said Donley. "A combination of weak laws and the EPA's broken pesticide regulatory process has allowed the pesticide industry to dictate which pesticides stay in use. That process undermines the safety of agricultural workers and anyone who eats food and drinks water in this country."
Since 1970, more than 500 pesticides have been used. Just 134 of those have been cancelled due to their harmful nature, and less than one-third of those were prohibited by the EPA.
The study is quick to advise that it did not compare the effectiveness of pesticide regulation between nations and may not accurately reflect other safeguards that may protect consumers against the harmful effects of pesticides, such as restrictions on pesticide labels.
Hawaii Becomes First State in the U.S. to Ban the Toxic Pesticide, Chlorpyrifos https://t.co/Vf9unEm2jJ @regeneration_in @OrganicConsumer @GMWatch #Chlorpyrifos #Pesticides #Hawaii @RootsofChange @NPRFood @foodtank— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) May 2, 2018
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At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
Australia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It is home to more than 7% of all the world's plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. One such species, the Pharohylaeus lactiferus bee, was recently rediscovered after spending nearly 100 years out of sight from humans.