Pollinators, agriculture and insecticides

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Lauantai 8.4.2017 klo 13:28 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The production of virtually all vegetable oils depends on plants, which need to be pollinated by bees and other insects. Similarly apples, cherries and most berries are produced only if insects pollinate the plants effectively. Thus, to a large part agricultural production needs insects such as bees. Against this background it is very surprising that especially farmer lobbying groups are strongly against banning of some insecticides such as neonicotinoids - if bees die, much of agriculture becomes impossible.

As such, it should not be a surprise that bees are killed by insecticides: they are as much insects as the harmful insect pests. If insecticides kill the latter, they also kill bees. To my knowledge nobody has been able to produce an insecticide which would kill pests and not harm the beneficial pollinators. With regard to the neonicotinoids, the problem is the following: the seeds are often treated with them, whereby the insecticide is released out of the growing plant, and kills the insects that would be disturbing plant growth. When the plants flower, the insecticide producers have estimated that the excreted amount of neonicotinoid is small enough not to be lethal to pollinators. Some recent results suggest that this is not the case. However, since it is clear that time of plant growth is a significant factor in affecting insectiside excretion, it is to my mind quite surprising that it has not been studied in detail, how the excretion depends on time. Another poorly known question is how long the excreted neonicotinoid remains poisonous in soil. Also this point would need time-course studies. Since such studies are for direct importance to agriculture, funding them should be done by diverting a small amount of agricultural subsidies to toxicological research needed for profitable future cultivation of oil plants.  

Avainsanat: neonicotinoids, vegetable oil, bees

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