Back in April, the European Union (EU) voted to ban several neonicotinoids – the most widely-used insecticides – for use anywhere other than closed greenhouses, due to their proven bee-harming properties. As is grimly typical of the Trump administration, they’ve turned their back on such evidence, and instead have rescinded a 2014 ban on neonicotinoids.
The Obama-era policy, brought in after legal action from environmentalists, was nixed per a memo from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) deputy director Greg Sheehan. As reported by the Guardian, he also said that the planting of GM crops on wildlife refuges would also be permitted once more.
Until now, very little agricultural activity was permitted on a handful of such refuges – havens for biodiverse, ecologically important swaths of land. More than 50 national wildlife refuges will now be open to both – on a case-by-case basis – in order to boost the agricultural sector’s efficiency and yields.
First, a note about GM crops.
Thanks to thousands of scientific studies and reviews, it’s become clear that GM crops are of no more risk to people who consume them than those that have been grown using conventional farming and breeding methods. The issue as to whether GM crops can colonize land that wasn’t meant for them is a tad murkier, but recent research is demonstrating that this is something we can handle.
You can also debate the using of wildlife refuges for agriculture, although it certainly seems to run counter to the motivation behind creating them as refuges in the first place. What seems unequivocally concerning, however, is the rescinding of the blanket ban on neonicotinoids. So – what are they, exactly?
As noted by Chemistry World, these water-soluble anti-pest compounds are taken up by the plant and dispersed throughout them. Neonics, as they are often referred to, are popular thanks to their effectiveness against multiple pests, their longevity, and over time become less toxic to mammals.
However, it’s increasingly clear that neonics were harming bees, both wild bees and honeybees. Although the direct cause of the problems is still being determined, it’s suspected that neonics overstimulate their neurons, which can trigger cell impairment, shutdowns, and even death. The more that bees are exposed to neonics, the more vulnerable to them they become.