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Daily News Blog

26
Oct

Major Popcorn Supplier to Eliminate Neonic Treated Seeds

(Beyond Pesticides, October 26, 2015) Last week, Pop Weaver, the second largest popcorn supplier in the country, released an official statement on its commitment to “removing 50 percent of its neonicotinoid usage in 2016, 75 percent in 2017, with a long-term commitment of further reducing usage by working with agricultural universities and those companies supplying neonicotinoids to the seed industry.” Widely-used neonicotinoids (neonics), which as systemic chemicals move through a plant’s vascular system and express poison through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, have been identified in multiple  peer-reviewed studies  and by beekeepers  as the major contributing factor in bee decline. This commitment is a response to a campaign led by Center for Food Safety (CFS), which asked citizens to sign a petition asking Pop Weaver, and other large popcorn suppliers, to protect bees and other pollinators by phasing out the use of neonicotinoid-coated corn seed. Over 37,000 people have signed their petition.

popcornAmericans eat, on average, 17.3 billion quarts of popcorn each year; each American eats about 68 quarts. According to CFS, there are roughly 40 insecticides currently registered for use as an active chemical on popcorn, including 3 bee-toxic neonicotinoid chemicals: clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid. Between  79 and 100 percent of corn seed in the U.S. is coated with neonicotinoids, including the corn used for popping.

There have been additional reports and studies published over the past few years questioning the benefits of neonic use.  In 2014, Beyond Pesticides featured an article, No Longer a Big Mystery, in the  quarterly newsletter Pesticides and You that challenges  industry claims that neonics are safe. The article references bee health science that reports that even small, low-dose (sublethal) neonicotinoid exposures can have detrimental effects on bees. Also in 2014, CFS  published a report  refuting claims that neonicotinoids bring greater benefits than costs to farmers. In the report, researchers analyzed independent, peer-reviewed, scientific literature and found that the benefits of prophylactic neonicotinoid use via seed treatments were nearly non-existent, and that any minor benefits that did occur were negated due to  honey bee colony impacts, reduced crop pollination by honey bees, reduced production of honey and other bee products, loss of ecosystem services, and market damage from contamination events. According to an international team of researchers led by Geoff Williams, MD, PhD, at the University of Bern in Switzerland, exposure to neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides results in overwhelming negative impacts to the health of honey bee queens. This year, the U.S. Geological Survey found that neonic insecticides contaminate over half of urban and agricultural streams across the United States and Puerto Rico; which exemplifies the impacts these chemicals have on other organisms, like  birds  (a single kernel of neonic-coated corn  is enough to kill a songbird).

Neonic-coated seeds are a target of anti-neonic campaigns because this class of insecticides is systemic, meaning that they live within the plant and last much longer and in much more critical areas than other insecticides. Across the nation, jurisdictions, like Boulder and Lafayette, Colorado, have been banning or limiting neonicotinoids. Last year, Ontario, Canada proposed a plan to reduce the use of neonic-coated corn and soybean seeds by 80%. In 2013, the European Union issued a 2-year moratorium banning neonics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) agreed to ban neonicotinoid insecticides from all wildlife refuges nationwide by this January. For more information on pollinators and pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides’ BeeProtective page.

The  Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act of 2015  remains an avenue for Congress to address the pollinator crisis.  Contact your U.S. Representative  and ask them to support this important legislation today. You can also get active in your community to protect bees by advocating for policies that restrict their use. Montgomery County, Maryland recently  restricted the use of a wide range of pesticides, including neonics, on public and private property.  Sign here  if you’d like to see your community do the same!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source:  Center for Food Safety

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One Response to “Major Popcorn Supplier to Eliminate Neonic Treated Seeds”

  1. 1
    Amy Says:

    I heard an interview some years back. A farmer said that if neonics were banned, then corn farmers would have to go back to what they did in the ’80’s: Rotate Crops. Truly? Are we killing off bees and insects so that we can monocrop instead of rotating? Seems to me that the trade-offs are too high.

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