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Neonicotinoids are the new DDT killing the natural world

Neonicotinoids are the new DDT killing the natural world

UK is collaborating in peddling the corporate line that neonicotinoid pesticides are safe to use – they are anything bu

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2013/aug/05/ne...

A farmer spraying crops with insecticide in Bedfordshire. Photograph: David Wootton/Alamy

It's the new DDT: a class of poisons licensed for widespread use before they had been properly tested, which are now ripping the natural world apart. And it's another demonstration of the old truth that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

 

It is only now, when neonicotinoids are already the world's most widely deployed insecticides, that we are beginning to understand how extensive their impacts are. Just as the manufacturers did for DDT, the corporations which make these toxins claimed that they were harmless to species other than the pests they targeted. Just as they did for DDT, they have threatened people who have raised concerns, published misleading claims and done all they can to bamboozle the public. And, as if to ensure that the story sticks to the old script, some governments have collaborated in this effort. Among the most culpable is the government of the United Kingdom.

 

As Prof Dave Goulson shows in his review of the impacts of these pesticides, we still know almost nothing about how most lifeforms are affected. But as the evidence has begun to accumulate, scientists have started discovering impacts across a vast range of wildlife.

 

Neonicotinoids are already known as a major cause of the decline of bees and other pollinators. These pesticides can be applied to the seeds of crops, and they remain in the plant as it grows, killing the insects which eat it. The quantities required to destroy insect life are astonishingly small: by volume these poisons are 10,000 times as powerful as DDT. When honeybees are exposed to just 5 nanogrammes of neonicotinoids, half of them will die. As bees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths, beetles and other pollinators feed from the flowers of treated crops, they are, it seems, able to absorb enough of the pesticide to compromise their survival.

 

But only a tiny proportion of the neonicotinoids that farmers use enter the pollen or nectar of the flower. Studies conducted so far suggest that only between 1.6% and 20% of the pesticide used for dressing seeds is actually absorbed by the crop: a far lower rate even than when toxins are sprayed onto leaves. Some of the residue blows off as dust, which is likely to wreak havoc among the populations of many species of insects in hedgerows and surrounding habitats. But the great majority – Goulson says "typically more than 90%" – of the pesticide applied to the seeds enters the soil.

Europe Ban insecticide Fipronil : A bee collects pollen from a sunflower

A bee collects pollen from a sunflower. Neonicotinoid containing insecticides used in gardens and fields have proved fatal for the bee population, which has a knock-on effect on the wider ecology. Photograph: Roland Weihrauch/AFP/Getty Images

 

In other words, the reality is a world apart from the impression created by the manufacturers, which keep describing the dressing of seeds with pesticides as "precise" and "targeted".

 

Neonicotinoids are highly persistent chemicals, lasting (according to the few studies published so far) for up to 19 years in the soil. Because they are persistent, they are likely to accumulate: with every year of application the soil will become more toxic.

 

What these pesticides do once they are in the soil, no one knows, as sufficient research has not been conducted. But – deadly to all insects and possibly other species at tiny concentrations – they are likely to wipe out a high proportion of the soil fauna. Does this include earthworms? Or the birds and mammals that eat earthworms? Or for that matter, the birds and mammals that eat insects or treated seeds? We don't yet know enough to say.

 

This is the story you'll keep hearing about these pesticides: we have gone into it blind. Our governments have approved their use without the faintest idea of what the consequences are likely to be.

Monbiot blog on Neonicotinoids : A dead pike due to pollution on the River Kennet

A dead pike on the River Kennet. Photograph: Adrian Arbib/Alamy

 

You may have the impression that neonicotinoids have been banned by the European Union. They have not. The use of a few of these pesticides has been suspended for two years, but only for certain purposes. Listening to the legislators, you could be forgiven for believing that the only species which might be affected is honeybees, and the only way in which they can be killed is through the flowers of plants whose seeds were dressed.

 

But neonicotinoids are also sprayed onto the leaves of a wide variety of crop plants. They are also spread over pastures and parks in granules, in order to kill insects that live in the soil and eat the roots of the grass. These applications, and many others, remain legal in the EU, even though we don't know how severe the wider impacts are. We do, however, know enough to conclude that they are likely to be bad.

 

Of course, not all the neonicotinoids entering the soil stay there indefinitely. You'll be relieved to hear that some of them are washed out, whereupon … ah yes, they end up in groundwater or in the rivers. What happens there? Who knows? Neonicotinoids are not even listed among the substances that must be monitored under the EU's water framework directive, so we have no clear picture of what their concentrations are in the water that we and many other species use.

 

But a study conducted in the Netherlands shows that some of the water leaving horticultural areas is so heavily contaminated with these pesticides that it could be used to treat lice. The same study shows that even at much lower concentrations – no greater than the limits set by the EU – the neonicotinoids entering river systems wipe out half the invertebrate species you would expect to find in the water. That's another way of saying erasing much of the foodweb.

 

I was prompted to write this article by the horrible news from the River Kennet in southern England: a highly protected ecosystem that is listed among the few dozen true chalk streams on Earth. In July, someone – farmer or householder, no one yet knows – flushed another kind of pesticide, chlorpyrifos, down their sink. The amount was equivalent – in pure form – to two teaspoonsful. It passed through Marlborough sewage works and wiped out most of the invertebrates in 15 miles of the river.

 

The news hit me like a bereavement. The best job I ever had was working, during a summer vacation from university, as temporary waterkeeper on the section of the Kennet owned by the Sutton estate. The incumbent had died suddenly. It was a difficult job and, for the most part, I made a mess of it.

 

But I came to know and love that stretch of river, and to marvel at the astonishing profusion of life the clear water contained. Up to my chest in it for much of the day, I immersed myself in the ecology, and spent far more time than I should have done watching watervoles and kingfishers; giant chub fanning their fins in the shade of the trees; great spotted trout so loyal to their posts that they had brushed white the gravel of the river bed beneath their tails; native crayfish; dragonflies; mayflies; caddis larvae; freshwater shrimps and all the other teeming creatures of the benthos.

 

In the evenings, wanting company and fascinated in equal measure by the protest and the remarkable people it attracted, I would stop at the peace camp outside the gates of the Greenham Common nuclear base. I've told the strange story that unfolded during my visits in another post.

 

Campaigners seeking to protect the river have described how, after the contamination, the river stank from the carcasses of the decaying insects and shrimps. Without insects and shrimps to feed on, the fish, birds and amphibians that use the river are likely to fade away and die.

 

After absorbing this news, I remembered the Dutch study, and it struck me that neonicotinoid pesticides are likely, in many places, to be reducing the life of the rivers they enter to a similar extent: not once, but for as long as they are deployed on the surrounding land.

 

Richard Benyon, the minister supposed to be in charge of protecting wildlife and biodiversity, who happens to own the fishing rights on part of the River Kennet, and to represent a constituency through which it passes, expressed his "anger" about the chlorpyrifos poisoning. Should he not also be expressing his anger at the routine poisoning of rivers by neonicotinoids?

 

Were he to do so, he would find himself in serious trouble with his boss. Just as they are systematically poisoning our ecosystems, neonicotinoids have also poisoned the policies (admittedly pretty toxic already) of the department supposed to be regulating them. In April, the Observer published a letter sent by the minister in charge of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Owen Paterson, to Syngenta, which manufactures some of these pesticides. Paterson promised the company that his efforts to prevent its products from being banned "will continue and intensify in the coming days".

 

And sure enough, the UK refused to support the temporary bans proposed by the commission both in April and in July, despite the massive petitions and the 80,000 emails on the subject that Paterson received. When Paterson and his department "Deathra" were faced with a choice between the survival of natural world and the profits of the pesticides companies, there was not much doubt about how they would jump. Fortunately they failed.

 

Their attempt to justify their votes led to one of the most disgraceful episodes in the sorry record of this government. The government's new chief scientist, Sir Mark Walport, championed a "study" Deathra had commissioned, which purported to show that neonicotinoids do not kill bees. It was not published in a peer-reviewed journal, nor could it be, as any self-respecting scientist, let alone the government's chief scientist, should have been able to see in a moment that it was complete junk. Among many other problems, the controls were hopelessly contaminated with the pesticide whose impacts the trial was supposed to be testing. The "study" was later ripped apart by the European Food Safety Authority.

 

But Walport did still worse, making wildly misleading statements about the science, and using scare tactics and emotional blackmail to try to prevent the pesticides from being banned, on behalf of his new masters.

 

It is hard to emphasise sufficiently the importance of this moment or the dangers it contains: the total failure of the government's primary source of scientific advice, right at the beginning of his tenure. The chief scientist is not meant to be a toadying boot-licker, but someone who stands up for the facts and the principles of science against political pressure. Walport disgraced his post, betrayed the scientific community and sold the natural world down the river, apparently to please his employers.

 

Last week, as if to remind us of the extent of the capture of this government by the corporations it is supposed to be regulating, the scientist who led the worthless trials that Walport and Paterson cited as their excuse left the government to take up a new post at … Syngenta. It seems to me that she was, in effect, working for them already.

 

So here we have a department staggering around like a drunkard with a loaded machine gun, assuring us that "it'sh perfectly shafe." The people who should be defending the natural world have conspired with the manufacturers of wide-spectrum biocides to permit levels of destruction which we can only guess. In doing so they appear to be engineering another silent spring.

 

Monbiot.com

Britain must not miss out on fracking: Cameron says drilling for shale gas should take place at more sites Tags: UK Fracking

Thanks to David Icke that have that on his headlines today.

SiNeh~

Britain must not miss out on fracking: Cameron says drilling for shale gas should take place at more sites

'David Cameron warned last night that Britain was ‘missing out big time’ on the benefits of fracking by not drilling at enough sites in the search for shale gas.

In his most outspoken comments about the technology, the Prime Minister said it would be a ‘big mistake’ if the Government did not encourage fracking across Britain. Mr Cameron said the Government would dispel ‘myths’ from green groups that drilling for gas would lead to earthquakes, and he dismissed fears that it could lead to water taps catching fire.

But campaigners last night accused him of lying about the dangers, as he suggested the UK should copy the US, where thousands of wells have been bored.'

Read more ...

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David Cameron slips up with promise of £1m fracking 'bribes' - ten times higher than planned

'The Prime Minister told an audience in Lancashire, where fracking is due to resume next year: "We are looking at trying to have a very simple system where every time a well is dug, immediately £1m goes to the local community.

"And not just to the local council but actually to local people, so people can see a cash benefit in their local village, in their local town and even, potentially, in their local pocket as well."

In fact, ministers in June backed a proposal from the shale gas industry to offer local communities £100,000 in an upfront payment for each exploration or appraisal well site where fracking takes place.

Downing Street sources confirmed the Prime Minister had slipped up and the correct figure was £100,000.'

Read more ...

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David Cameron's Links to the Fracking Industry

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New Study Finds High Levels of Arsenic in Groundwater Near Fracking Sites

'A recently published study by researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington found elevated levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in groundwater near natural gas fracking sites in Texas’ Barnett Shale.

While the findings are far from conclusive, the study provides further evidence tying fracking to arsenic contamination. An internal Environmental Protection Agency PowerPoint presentation recently obtained by the Los Angeles Times warned that wells near Dimock, Pa., showed elevated levels of arsenic in the groundwater.'

Read more ...

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Fracking 'could put gas and chemicals' in drinking water

'Drinking water could be contaminated with methane gas and chemicals due to fracking, water companies have warned.

Water UK, which represents all major UK water suppliers, said the shale gas extraction method posed a threat if not "carefully planned and carried out". It also warned fracking's "huge" use of water could cause shortages in areas of low supply, like South East England.'

Read more ...

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Citizens Speak Up About Contaminated Water in Franklin Twp., Pa.

GLOBAL LOOTING: The new EU bailin law was passed 8 days ago….did you notice? Tags: EU BANKS BAILIN

Revealed: official details on how the EU will steal from us

lobs

Are you a citizen with rights, or just a helpless crustacean?

Three beaming eurocrats – Barroso, Van Rompuy and Lithuanian Dalia Grybauskaite – emerged triumphant from a session two days ago, in which they mapped out the biggest bank heist in world history. This is to put flesh on the eurozone law hastily passed on August 1st (while EU citizens were on holiday) to deal with the inevitability event of a bank collapse. Under this draft proposal – which many expect to be applied to the entire EU – no depositor big or small will in future be able to feel safe with money deposited in a bank. The Slog now calls for those who represent us, across the entire cultural spectrum of European society – to do something.

In a barely read piece a month ago, the International Business Times reported on the rapidly drafted new EU law for “overhauling its policy on how banks receive bumper bailouts”. Be aware: this is an EU move, not a eurozone move: it is already law (it passed on August 1st) and although for now it applies only to the eurozone, it is an EU law. Hardly anyone has commented on this, but the approach being taken matches word for word the 3-card trick George Osborne used six weeks ago when he said:

“In future, taxpayers will not be called upon to bail banks out. It will be down to the creditors and the owners”.

The most remarkable example of double-speak to date, at the time I pointed out that creditors are taxpayers (they’re account holders, simple as that) and so as the Establishments daren’t ask us for higher taxes to bail out their mates in the banking system, they will take it via, if you like, Direct Debit. It is exactly the same principle of stealing the Troika wishes to apply to Greek private pension funds.

The initial piece at the IBT website noted that ‘Eurozone leaders agreed upon the major policy shift and also confirmed that the new rules will help protect the taxpayer and move the burden of bailing out the banks onto shareholders and junior debt holders.” Again, more bollocks: how will ripping your money out protect you? And note – junior debt holders…aka, you and I.

3monkropBut yesterday from the German site Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten (German Economic News) came a piece reporting that all bets are off as far as the ‘guarantee of all funds under €100,000′ pledge is concerned. Under the current Lithuanian Presidency of Dalia Grybauskaite (seen left between a Trot and a poet), the proposal as drafted – and almost entirely ignored by the Western media – states as follows:

* Treatment will not be the same regardless of size of deposit, BUT small account holders will have to wait up to four weeks to get their money….’depending on how serious the insolvency is’. During that time, there will be a maximum withdrawal of €100-200 per day – again, perhaps less depending on the seriousness of the failure. (Based on the Cyprus experience, the haircut in the end will be at least 60%).

* The EU Parliament – allegedly – is demanding that deposits of €100,000+ euros should be confiscated within five days. (So much for MEPs offering us some kind of protection from the Sprouts).

* In the event of a banking collapse, all previous government commitments are null and void.  The force majeur of “exceptional circumstances” can lead to ways round such pledges. Part of the new plan suggests savers could also be subject to a ‘penalty tax’ if they have less than € 100,000 in the bank. (So much for Merkel’s promise to the German people).

George Orwell could’ve dropped acid and still not come up with a scheme quite so assumptive and brazenly deranged as this one. It is based on the following insane principles:

1. Putting money in a bank makes every citizen a creditor of that bank, equally prone to confiscation in order to repay….who exactly? The answer is, other banks it owed money. So it’s not really our money after all, it’s the banking sector’s money. After it’s been taxed by the Government, despite the fact that we earned it…it’s really all bankers’ money after all. Unbelievable.

2. If we are prudent enough to keep money in smaller amounts in lots of accounts, we will have to pay a ‘penalty tax’ – well of course we will: I mean, given it’s never our money really – we’re just borrowing it, or something – then quite right too. And because it isn’t really our money, we shall be given strictly limited spending money per day. The brass neck is beyond belief.

3. If you have been seditious enough in your life to actually make quite a lot of money legally, then within five days the money that was never really yours will be taken back by its rightful owners…the bankers….or the Government rescuing the bankers but without doing it in our taxes. Why five days – why not five seconds? I mean, it’s their money: we were just earning it for safe keeping, right? Of course we were.

4. Anything is an exceptional circumstance if they say it is. Even the Nazis in 1933 had to burn down the bloody Reichstag to declare a State of Emergency. In 2013, it requires just one dumb, over-leveraged, f**kwitted bank to collapse under the weight of its CEO’s ego, and we’re all pauperised by Law.

I think the time has finally come when we must give our legislators and ‘leaders’ here in the UK a gigantic kick up the jacksy. And I think the time has come for every decent organisation to mobilise even Wayne and Waynetta to GTF off the sofa and start making it clear to the scheming Wankers of Westminster that we’re not having any of this crap here in Britain.

As I tried to point out two years ago, this is no longer a political issue. This is a case of one simple rule by which decent citizens must abide: stealing things is wrong…especially when it’s done to repair your own stupid decisions in the past.

These are the questions we should address to everyone supposed to represent us, starting today:

1. To German Sloggers, demand Angela Merkel make the safety of ALL EU citizens’ bank money a solid Election pledge next month.

2. To the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and humanist leaderships of Britain: start an outcry in the media. Why aren’t you giving your parishioners more support? Where is the outcry about pilfering from innocent citizens? Where is the condemnations of illegal, amoral confiscation?

3. To the anti-EU Conservative Right, to UKip and its leader Nigel Farage, to our MEPs – especially Dan Hannan: do you realise the delayed referendum on EU membership will come far too late to stop this? When are you going to start spelling this out to your supporters and media contacts that this is now a matter of citizen survival? Why hasn’t there been uproar in the European Parliament about this? You guys talk a good game, but where’s the line in the sand?

4. To the TUC: Your members are about to be fleeced by the Co-op’s management, and stand to be ruined by the EU’s ECB-driven policy of slashing both the wages and assets of the European workforce. Can we have less political point-scoring, and more ecumenical organising action?

5. To the Labour Party leadership: show that you truly are our friend in tough times. Stop doing bloody focus groups and poncing about between the lines of bland policy statements designed to make you look harmlessly voteworthy. Come back off your holidays and take a stand – when are you going to start hounding Camerlot bigtime on this iniquitous policy? Or are you complicit in it? Please tell us.

6. To the whingers and it-won’t-make-any-difference-it’s-nothing-to-do-with-me brigade: sorry, but you just ran out of road. Like it or not, you’re involved. Start a movement now to remove every penny of current account and deposit monies from the bank. Are you a live Homo sapiens, or a braindead lobster?

The Co-operative scandal is just the beginning. They are going to take our money and leave us all penniless….at their mercy. To combat this, we really don’t need any slogan beyond this one:

 

sayno

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