By George Harvey
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the EPA’s approval of the DOW pesticide, sulfoxaflor. Sulfoxaflor is one of a class of chemical poisons known as neonicotinoids, all similar in important ways to nicotine. They are used to control insect pests, and their use is widespread. Neonicitinoids are used on as much as 95% of our corn and soybean crops, and sulfoxaflor is just one of them.
A particular problem with neonicotinoids is that they are highly toxic to bees and may even be an important cause of honey bee colony collapse disorder. Loss of honey bees is an especially great problem because they pollinate a large percentage of our agricultural crops. A number of crops are largely or even entirely dependent on honey bees for pollination. Almonds are 100% reliant on them. Bees add an estimated $15 billion per year to agricultural production. Loss of honey bees is a serious economic problem.
The implications of use of neonicotinoids are really rather complicated. For example, according to New Agriculturalist online (bit.ly/insecticides-and-killer-bees) , the so-called “killer bees” from Africa are less susceptible to insecticides than European honey bees. One implication of this is that insecticides could help the spread of African bees that might replace weakened colonies of honey bees in the United States.
We should point out that sulfoxaflor is only one of the neonicotinoids, and the court ruling applies only to it. The others are more important commercially and agriculturally than it is, and they will continue to be used without any effects from the court case.
Clearly, we can get to a point where by eliminating the insects we find to be pests, we can eliminate insects that are absolutely necessary. Perhaps this has come because politics values corn and soybeans above almonds and bees. We need a better way to deal with our environment.