Neonicotinoids May Cause Brain Damage And Threaten Bees [Study]

Tara Dodrill

A neonics study revealed that toxic effects of several types of neonicotinoids used at sub lethal doses negatively impact honeybees, birds, aquatic fauna, and human health. Two types neonicotinoids often used on crops in the United States may cause brain impairment and should be restricted, according to the recent study by a team of European scientists.

Neonicotinoids are among the primary ingredients in chemical pesticides and herbicides manufactured by biotech giants like Monsanto and DuPont, according to an Off The Grid News report. An earlier study published by the journal Ecology linked the chemical with the unprecedented decline in the honeybee population worldwide. Neonicotinoids reportedly disrupt the immune systems of bees and make them vulnerable to viral infections that the species had typically been resistant. A study conducted by the American Bird Conservancy maintains that the neonics problem is worse than initially believed and threaten both the pollination process and biological control of ecosystems.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report stated that further restrictions of neonicotinoids is needed because the use of such chemicals "may affect the developing human nervous system of children." Officials in Europe passed new restrictions on three types of neonicotinoids during the early months of 2013 to help protect the honeybee population. The tiny pollinators are integral to the survival of both human and livestock.

The European scientists believe that the neonicotinoids are safe only on amounts smaller than what are currently allowed by law. "Acetamiprid and imidacloprid may adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with functions such as learning and memory," a press release that accompanied the study states.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also conducted a similar study which reportedly showed equally adverse effects on honeybees, but the federal agency has failed to take action on the findings. The European scientists began reviewing the impact of the neonicotinoids imidacloprid and acetamiprid after a Japanese study prompted safety concerns in 2012.

An excerpt from the neonicotinoids study reads:

"One study with rats showed that offspring exposed to imidacloprid suffered brain shrinkage, reduced activity of nerve signals controlling movement, and weight loss. Another rat study found that acetamiprid exposure led to reduced weight, reduced survival, and a heightened response to startling sounds."

A New York Times report stated that imidacloprid is one of the "most popular" insecticides used in consumer and agricultural products. Bayer developed the neonicotinoid and it is the active ingredient in the company's Advanced Citrus and Vegetable Insect Control products. The biotech product is sold around the world, including in Home Depot stores throughout the United States.

Bayer representative Richard Breum dismissed the Japanese neonicotinoids study saying rat cell cultures and not human cells were used during the testing. Bayer profits from the sale of chemical pesticides and herbicides which contain various neonicotinoids. "Imidacloprid has no developmental neurotoxicity potential in humans," Breum said, according to The New York Times.

A statement released by the European Food Safety Authority reads:

"[The study] recognizes the available evidence has limitations and recommends further research be carried out to provide more robust data. [But] health concerns raised in the review of the existing data are legitimate."

Nisso Chemical, a German branch of a Japanese company, developed Acetamiprid with the assistance of Bayer. The neonicotinoid is found in products such as the company's Ortho Flower, Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer.

European Food Safety Association spokesman James Ramsay said:

"We're advising that all neonicotinoid substances be evaluated as part of this testing strategy, providing that they show a similar toxicological profile to the two substances we've assessed in this opinion."

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