They Are Biocides, Not Pesticides — And They Are Creating an Ecocide

“A single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoid can kill a song bird.” As a long time environmental lawyer and campaigner, I should not have been stunned by that fact but I was. Shaking my head in dismay, I read on, “Even a tiny grain of wheat or canola treated with the …neonicotinoid… can fatally poison a bird.”

The report is from the American Bird Conservancy and the neonicotinoids referred to are a relatively new class of insecticides that have become the most commonly used in the world, with several hundred products approved for use in the U.S. These “neonics” are neurotoxins that paralyze and eventually kill their victim. My organization, Center for Food Safety, has been working hard to halt the use of these neonics through litigation, legislation, and legal petitions to the Environmental Protection Agency. We are suing to address the well-publicized threat that neonics present to the survival of honey bees and wild bees. At the time we launched our legal actions, I did not even know about the song birds.

The anger-stirring realization that a song bird could be felled by a single seed and the prospect of bees being silenced forever brought me back to the words of Rachel Carson, written more than half a century ago in Silent Spring. “These… non selective chemicals have the power to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad,’ to still the songs of the birds and the leaping fish… they should not be called insecticides but biocides.” Through Carson’s crusade, biocides like DDT were eventually banned but new chemicals like neonicotinoids and other similar “systemic” insecticides/biocides have taken their place causing similar ecological havoc. Sadly, our regulatory agencies under the sway of the agrochemical industry have enabled this tragic and —> Read More