Having Already Killed Half A Billion Bees, Brazil Approves New Pesticides Even More Fatal
Between December 2018 and February 2019, Brazil killed more than 500 million bees across four Brazilian states by exposing them to pesticides containing neonicotinoids and fipronil. And now the government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is approving more than 290 new pesticide products that could lead to a die-off of bees never before seen, according to Mongabay:
“On July 22, the Bolsonaro administration approved the use of six pesticide products based on Sulfoxaflor, an insecticide known to be highly toxic to pollinators such as bees. These pesticides, authorized for distribution by the Dow Chemical Company, will be used on cotton, tomatoes, wheat, beans, melon, watermelon, soybean and citrus crops starting in October. Beekeepers say they fear the number of dead bees will be even higher from 2020 onward as a consequence of the use of these new pesticides.”
The importance of bees to the world’s ecology cannot possibly be overstated. As pollinators, they help promote the reproduction of plants across the world. In Brazil alone, fully 60 percent of the 141 crops grown for human and animal consumption depend on pollination by bees, according to a report from BPBES, Globally, 75 percent of crops used for human consumption also depends on bees.
In the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, which is the country’s largest honey producer, some 400 million bees have been killed, and Brazil is home to 300 native species:
“Each species tends to pollinate specific plants. Bumblebees, for example, commonly known in Brazil as abelhão, are the main pollinators of passion fruit. ‘What would happen if this insect went extinct? We would either stop eating this fruit or it would become very expensive, because in order to produce it, pollination would have to be carried out by hand,’ said Carmen Pires, an insect ecologist and researcher at Embrapa, the national agricultural research body.
Bees are even beneficial to crops they don’t directly pollinate, according to Pires:
“In soya farming, for example, we can see an 18 percent increase in production. We also need to draw attention to the knock-on effect. Plants need bees to produce seeds and fruit, which are consumed by birds, that in turn are important for the diet of other animals. Bee deaths affect the whole food chain.”
Increasingly, entire bee colonies are being destroyed as a result of exposure to pesticides such as fipronil and neonicotinoids.
Aroni Sattler, an agronomist and professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, has been researching bees since 1973, and he notes that pesticides are indeed to blame for the die-off of bees being seen in his country:
“Last year, Sattler led a study into 30 cases of significant bee colony losses in Rio Grande do Sul, at the request of Bioensaios, a private laboratory. The results showed that about 80 percent of bees had ingested or been exposed to fipronil. ‘Farmers in the region were mixing fipronil in a tank with desiccants and applying these during soil preparation, the growing season and harvesting,’ he said, adding that the chemical was ‘particularly toxic for them.'”
Experts on bees say the only way to prevent further deaths in bee colonies is with additional protections, and some nations are actively working to solve the problem:
“Fipronil was partially banned in the European Union in 2013, and since 2017 has effectively been fully prohibited there after its approval for use expired. Prior to that, it was banned in France in 2004, following complaints after almost 40 percent of insects in French apiaries were found dead. In 2013, licenses to use neonicotinoids were suspended for two years, and in 2018 they were banned permanently.”
In 2014, the Obama administration banned the use of neonicotinoids in wildlife refuges, but in July of 2018, President Donald Trump overturned that that ban, which could have devastating consequences for bees and other pollinators in the U.S.
Featured Image Via Pixabay