Monsanto to Keep Selling Pesticide-Coated Seeds EPA Says Don't Help Yields ― And May Harm Bees

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November 04, 2014 | 69,001 views

Story at-a-glance

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency analyzed the use of neonicotinoids for insect control in US soybean production and found they provide little or no overall benefits
  • Neonicotinoids have been implicated in massive bee die-offs plaguing the US and other parts of the world, and research shows they’re also harmful to butterflies, earthworms, and birds
  • Monsanto has no plans to stop selling the treated seeds to farmers
  • Votes to label genetically modified foods are going on in Oregon and Colorado

By Dr. Mercola

Unbeknownst to many Americans, the majority of soybean, corn, canola, and sunflower seeds planted in the US are coated with neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics).

The chemicals, which are produced by Bayer and Syngenta, travel systemically through the plants and kill insects that munch on their roots and leaves. Neonicotinoids are powerful neurotoxins and are quite effective at killing the pests… but they’re also being blamed for decimating populations on non-target pests, namely pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

This occurs because the pesticides are taken up through the plant's vascular system as it grows, and, as a result, the chemical is expressed in the pollen and nectar of the plant. Despite accumulating evidence that neonics are implicated in widespread bee deaths across the US, Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow, which sell the treated seeds, have no intention of stopping.

Neonicotinoids Lead to ‘No Difference’ in Soybean Yields

The use of neonics becomes even more tragic (and greedy) after an analysis by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found they do little, if anything, to boost crop yields. Bayer, for instance, continues to claim that neonicotinoids help farmers to increase productivity1… 

But this is not what the EPA’s analysis revealed. According to the EPA, which analyzed the use of neonicotinoids for insect control in US soybean production:2

EPA concludes that these seed treatments provide little or no overall benefits to soybean production in most situations. Published data indicate that in most cases there is no difference in soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus not receiving any insect control treatment.”

A public comment period on the analysis is open until December 22, 2014… let’s hope that after that time the EPA will take action against these environmentally destructive chemicals. To date, unfortunately, the EPA has failed to take action and has already been sued once by beekeepers and environmental groups for failing to protect bees from neonicotinoid pesticides.

They have also green-lighted another pesticide that is a close cousin to these toxic chemicals (sulfoxaflor). As a result, several beekeeping organizations and beekeepers have filed a legal action against them for approving sulfoxaflor, which is considered by many to be a "fourth-generation neonicotinoid.”

At least, in June 2014, an Executive Order was issued by the US government to investigate pollinator health (including the use of neonicotinoids), although no federal bans have been put in place.

Mounting Evidence Shows Neonicotinoids Are Too Toxic to Use

In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report that ruled neonicotinoid insecticides are essentially “unacceptable” for many crops,3 and in the US, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) announced that they were restricting the use of 18 pesticide products containing dinotefuran, a type of neonicotinoid.

Neonicotinoids have been increasingly blamed for bee deaths (and were implicated in last year’s mass bee die-off of 25,000 bumblebees along with millions of bee deaths in Canada), prompting the European Union (EU) to ban them for two years, beginning December 1, 2013, to study their involvement with large bee kills. At the end of two years, the restriction will be reviewed.

Meanwhile, an independent review by 29 scientists with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (which looked at 800 studies) put another nail in the coffin for neonicotinoids.

The study found that neonicotinoids are indeed gravely harming bees and other pollinators (like butterflies). And that’s not all. The research also showed serious harm to birds, earthworms, snails, and other invertebrates.4 One of the researchers, Jean-Marc Bonmatin with the National Centre for Scientific Research, said:5

"The evidence is very clear. We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment equivalent to that posed by organophosphates or DDT… Far from protecting food production, the use of neonicotinoid insecticides is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it."

Neonicotinoids Found in 100 Percent of Midwestern Streams Tested

So there’s solid research showing that neonicotinoids harm bees and other wildlife and do little to increase crop yields… further, research in Environmental Pollution identified yet another route of harm: waterways.6

After sampling nine Midwestern stream sites during the 2013 growing season, neonicotinoids were detected at all sites sampled. At different times of the growing season, levels of the insecticides peaked. For instance, after spring planting, levels spiked well above what would be considered toxic for aquatic organisms.7

Furthermore, reduced levels were detected in the waterways even before planting, which indicates that they can “persist from applications in prior years.”8 As reported by Mother Jones:9

These findings directly contradict industry talking points. Older insecticides were typically sprayed onto crops in the field, while neonics are applied directly to seeds…

‘Due to its precise application directly to the seed, which is then planted below the soil surface, seed treatment reduces potential off-target exposure to plants and animals,’ Croplife America, the pesticide industry's main lobbying outfit, declared in a 2014 report.

Yet… USGS researchers report that older pesticides that once rained down on the corn/soy belt, like chlorpyrifos and carbofuran, turned up at ‘substantially’ lower rates in water—typically, in less than 20 percent of samples, compared to the 100 percent of samples found in the current neonic study.

Apparently, pesticides that are taken up by plants through seed treatments don't stay in the plants; and neonics, the USGS authors say, are highly water soluble and break down in water more slowly than the pesticides they've replaced.”

Top Scientific Journals Won’t Run Dr. Bronner’s Anti-GMO Ad…

David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, recently submitted a short advertorial to two leading science journals: Science and Nature. The short essay described how genetically modified (GM) crops have led to a net increase in pesticide use and cited data from Dr. Ramon J. Seidler, who is a former senior scientist with the EPA.

While magazines including Scientific American and The New Yorker accepted the ad, both journals denied it. Nature gave little in the way of explanation, but Science explained:10

“…our CEO along with the board have come back saying that we cannot accept the ad. We're concerned about backlash from our members and potentially getting into a battle with the GMO industry.”

It’s unclear what type of backlash they expected, but clearly they weren’t willing to take on any sort of battle in the interest of the sharing of knowledge and information – which scientific journals stand for. Laurie Faraday, the journal’s East regional ad-sales manager told Mother Jones that the editorial side even agreed with what Dr. Bronner’s ad said… they simply feared the backlash of the GMO industry:11

Science's management found it ‘a little bit controversial,’ and worried that ‘if we allowed that kind of a piece to be printed in Science, then maybe we'd be subject to the GMO world coming after us.’ She added: ‘Ironically, it's not that anyone in the organization disagreed with what it [the ad] said. It's just that we had to consider that the opposite side of the coin might want to start a war in our magazine.’"

Why We Need GMO Labeling: GM Soy Has Higher Levels of Pesticide Residues

From a regulatory perspective, GM crops are considered to be "substantially equivalent" to their non-GM counterparts. This means, that they are essentially the same, with no meaningful differences for your health or the environment. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has (so far) not required labeling of GM foods because they are deemed to be "substantially equivalent" to non-GM foods. It is also due to substantial equivalence that no oversight or long-term safety testing has been required of GM crops.

Yet, research shows that GM crops are not the same as their traditionally grown counterparts. A 2012 nutritional analysis of GMO versus non-GMO corn showed shocking differences in nutritional content. Non-GMO corn contained 437 times more calcium, 56 times more magnesium, and 7 times more manganese than GMO corn. GMO corn was also found to contain 13 ppm of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, compared to zero in non-GMO corn.

Research published in 2014 in the journal Food Chemistry also revealed that GM soybeans contain high residues of glyphosate and its amino acid metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA).12 The researchers also noted soybeans from different agricultural practices (GMO, organic, and conventional) differ in nutritional quality, and concluded their data “rejects that GM soy is substantially equivalent to non-GM soybeans.” They noted:

Using 35 different nutritional and elemental variables to characterize each soy sample, we were able to discriminate GM, conventional and organic soybeans without exception, demonstrating ‘substantial non-equivalence’ in compositional characteristics for ‘ready-to-market’ soybeans.”

Genetic testing recently carried out by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) confirmed that GM soy has been detected in infant formula being sold in Portland, Oregon,13 where a vote on whether or not to label GM foods is going on today – November 4, 2014. Most mothers would be interested to know if the infant formula they’re buying contains more pesticide residues and other risks from GM ingredients compared to another brand… and this is just one example of why GMO labeling is so important.

Voters in Oregon and Colorado: Vote YES for GMO Labeling Today, November 4, 2014

To learn more about this boycott, and the traitor brands that are included, please visit I also encourage you to donate to the Organic Consumers Fund. Your donation will help fight the GMA lawsuit in Vermont, and also help win the GMO labeling ballot initiative in Oregon in November.

Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference. By boycotting GMA member Traitor Brands, you can help level the playing field, and help take back control of our food supply. And as always, continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and share what you’ve learned with family and friends.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 May 15, 2014
  • 2 US Environmental Protection Agency
  • 3 November 22, 2011
  • 4 IUCN June 24, 2014
  • 5 July 15, 2014
  • 6 Environmental Pollution, 193: 189 - 196
  • 7 The Cornucopia Institute July 28, 2014
  • 8 The Cornucopia Institute July 28, 2014
  • 9 Mother Jones July 29, 2014
  • 10 Mother Jones October 20, 2014
  • 11 Mother Jones October 20, 2014
  • 12 Food Chemistry Volume 153, June 15, 2014, Pages 201-215
  • 13 eNews Park Forest October 23, 2014
  • 14 Organic Consumers Association May 14, 2014