The bees are disappearing.
Beekeepers notice a substantial loss of almost half their colonies, and they’re desperate to change the tides before it’s too late. And a significant contributing factor to this ecological damage is chemicals like neonicotinoid pesticides used on crops across the United States.
These chemicals have been confirmed to attack the nerve cells of vital pollinators, killing entire populations and causing a massive shift in the environment. But what are neonicotinoid pesticides, and how close can you find them in your home right now?
What Are Neonicotinoid Pesticides?
Neonicotinoid pesticides, known more commonly as neonics, are an insecticide that works by overstimulating and destroying the nervous system from the inside out. Insects that are infected by neonics experience uncontrollable shaking and paralysis before dying.
Unlike other pesticides, neonicotinoid pesticides are systemic and absorb themselves into the exposed plants. That means that you can’t wash them off without a problem. The chemical binds to every part from the nectar to the pollen, and renders it toxic.
You may think that a pesticide like this wouldn’t be commonly used, but neonics are the most popular insecticide in the United States. They’re especially prominent on the East coast, but they can be found in lawn bug sprays, flea and tick treatments, and crops across the country.
Neonics were once even more widely used, but other nations note its adverse effects and ban them in their farm work. The European Union, for instance, has eliminated the usage of three popular neonics across several of its countries. Canada is following in their direction to phase out those same chemicals in the next 3-5 years.
Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides
Neonics are bad news for more than our local bee population. This insecticide can poison birds that eat these tainted seeds and even certain aquatic invertebrates. But what about humans? If we eat a crop saturated in neonicotinoid pesticides, are we putting ourselves at risk?
Research has shown evidence of Neonicotinoids in much of the produce that people eat regularly. One study found a high level of neonic residue in potatoes, spinach, cherries, and tomatoes. Much like the birds who eat the tainted seeds and face the consequences, we run the risk of exposure with every trip to the grocery store.
The exact effects of neonicotinoid pesticides in human beings are still being debated, but just because we don’t know what it can do doesn’t mean it’s without side effects. Recent studies have shown that exposure to neonics leads to potential damage to developing fetuses. It could result in a risk of memory loss or autism spectrum disorder. And since neonics are designed to attack the nervous system of bugs, they can do the same thing to human beings that ingest it. That is less likely when eating food treated with neonicotinoid pesticides than when working with flea and tick chemicals made with the same ingredients. It’s less likely because of our biological makeup, but it can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and hypertension in severe cases.
Environmental Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on the World’s Ecosystem
Despite what we said at the beginning of this post, neonicotinoid pesticides were initially touted as low-toxic to bees and other necessary insects. Obviously, this has since come into question, as we’ve seen research showing that neonics are killing many of the insects we need for the world’s ecosystem.
But concerning the bees—is losing them really such a big deal? They’re just one insect out of the swarms we come across daily. How much will the world miss out on if we no longer have bees?
For one thing, if we don’t have bees, we would lose countless plants that are pollinated solely by their work, gradually affecting the habitats across the country. That includes the many fruits and vegetables that rely on bees to grow. Einstein once said that humanity would only have four years of life left on the planet without bees. While this is not an exact estimate, the intention is more than clear.
Alternatives to Neonicotinoid Pesticides
For a chemical that still has such a hold on American crops, you’d expect them to be vital for our country’s food production. Oddly enough, most of what neonicotinoid pesticides are used on is entirely unnecessary. It’s been observed by the Environmental Protection Agency that up to half of conventional soybean seeds are neonic-treatment, even though that provides little to no benefit to growers. And the entirety of American corn seed is also neonic-treated, for essentially no reason.
Other pesticides can take the place of this unneeded insecticide. Growers can practice diverse crop rotations or introduce pest enemies to eliminate the need for any hazardous material.
Avoiding Pesticides In Your Diet
How can you avoid neonicotinoid pesticides in your diet?
The truth is that neonics are so commonly used in the United States that they’re incredibly difficult to stay away from. It’s far too easy to go through the aisles at the grocery store and mindlessly pick whatever looks the freshest. You’ll be done quicker and probably spend less money, but in the process, you’ll be putting a lot of unknown chemicals and additives into your diet.
You can uproot your life and move to Canada or one of those countries in the EU that no longer supports neonicotinoids, but that’s a long way to go for a less toxic potato. A better way for a cleaner and pesticide-free diet is to shop intentionally for your produce.
Find the farmer’s markets in your area, which supports good agricultural practices, your community as well as your health. And it’ll allow you to ask questions about your food directly to the people who tended to it. If that’s not possible, buying organic is the best way to ensure your food is free of toxic additives.
And on a larger scale, the best way to avoid neonicotinoid pesticides in your grocery store is to become educated on pesticides-free options that are available to you.
Check out my latest eBook, “What’s Really in Your Food?“. In in, I reveal 10 easy steps that show you how to buy real, clean,pesticides and hormone-free foods to supercharge your health and longevity.