Seventy-five percent of honey samples tested between 2012 and 2016 showed levels of a class of pesticide called neonicotinoid known to impair honeybees’ cognitive function.
The findings, published in the recent issue of the journal Science, point to North America as having the highest levels of neonicotinoid contamination at 86 percent. Asia samples came in at 80 percent, Europe at 79 percent, and South America the lowest at 57 percent. Neonics, as they’re also called have been directly linked to bee decline and a condition called colony collapse disorder where bees become disoriented, abandon their hives, and often die.
Neonics are widely used as agricultural pesticides because while they are effective at killing insects, they’re believed to pose little threat to mammals or humans.
But their damaging effects to bees hurt humans indirectly. If honeybees continue to face this level of decline, it will mean significant challenges for our global food system as bees are responsible for pollinating about one-third of major food crops. Without honeybees certain foods will become more scarce and food prices will rise dramatically. It’s not yet known what other impacts the significant loss of a pollinator species would have on our food and ecosystems.
France has taken measures to drastically decrease neonic use, imposing a temporary ban of several classes of the chemical. But it’s still widely used elsewhere around the world.
“We used to think that neonicotinoids are only found in areas where they are heavily used on one particular crop,” Mark Winston, Simon Fraser University professor and bee researcher, told CBC News, “but this study is consistent with others that have found neonicotinoids up to quite a few kilometres away from the place where they are used.”
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