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HOME En - Fr - Es - De English Neonicotinoids: not just bees and pollinators' killers but even responsible for the impressive birds' decline

Neonicotinoids: not just bees and pollinators' killers but even responsible for the impressive birds' decline

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Updated April, 18 - April 10, 2013 spagnola 18x12 italiana 18x12

erithacus rubeculaAn imposing new study, commissioned by the authoritative American Bird Conservancy identified the "impact of neonicotinoid pesticides as the main cause of the food chain deterioration".

The nearly 100-page study — called "The Impact of the Nation's Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds" and co-authored by environmental toxicologist Dr. Pierre Mineau and American Bird Conservancy Pesticides Program Manager Cynthia Palmer — reviews 200 studies on the effects of neonicotinoids and finds that "the pesticides' persistence, solubility, toxicity and mobility pose a unique threat, particularly to aquatic ecosystems, where agricultural runoff may cause permanent damage to aquatic invertebrate populations and all the organisms that depend on them for food".

The conservancy’s report alleges that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has simply ignored evidence of toxicity to birds and small mammals, creatures known to eat freshly planted seeds, even those coated in pesticide.

The report states: “Of particular concern to birds are those compounds that are used as seed treatments, primarily imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam and acetamiprid. … Seeds are never fully covered with soil, making them easy to find by foraging birds. Spills are commonplace with current machinery. And many species have the ability to scrape and dig for planted seed. Seed treatments, by definition, will result in a high exposure situation for birds….”.

Image of the bookThe conservancy singles out imidacloprid as acutely toxic to birds at surprisingly low levels, nothing that a single kernel of treated corn can kill small birds and sicken large ones, and calls for a ban on its use as a seed treatment.

More alarmingly, the report goes into great detail about agricultural runoff resulting in contamination of aquatic environments, from rivers and streams to groundwater wells and even to "prairie potholes", which are vital wetlands oases for waterfowl, often set amidst big tracts of commodity cropland. Neonicotinoid pesticides, which act on the central nerve system, can persist in soil for as long as two years, and are highly water soluble. Contamination through runoff is inevitable, as EPA’s own scientists have repeatedly warned. 

Though the report is chock full of bad news, it also contains proposals to mitigate a bleak forecast.
Among the American Bird Conservancy’s recommendations:
Ban the use of neonicotinoids as seed treatment.
Suspend all applications for neonicotinoids pending independent review of the impact on birds, aquatic invertebrates and other wildlife.

Source: Mother Nature Network. "It's not just bees: Popular pesticides are killing birds, too"

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