What motivates sales of pollinator-friendly plants?

Image of urban garden.

(EurekAlert/American Society for Horticultural Science) An analysis out of the University of Georgia details the relationship between consumer awareness and the attentiveness and care given to pollinator-friendly plant purchases. The results show that information from the federal government, nursery/greenhouse industry associations, and environmental activist groups has the same impact on self-reported future pollinator-friendly plant purchasing as the no-information group. Only information from universities and major media outlets reportedly drives changes in consumer behavior.

Pesticide seed coatings are widespread but underreported

Image of pesticide-coated seeds

(Penn State) Pesticide-coated seeds – including neonicotinoids – are increasingly used in the major field crops but are underreported, in part, because farmers often do not know what pesticides are on their seeds, according to an international team of researchers. “One of the most important findings of this study is that farmers know less about pesticides applied to their seeds than pesticides applied in other ways.”

Minnesota cities could get power to ban pesticides as bee populations fall

Image of rusty patched bumble bee on Joe Pye weed.

(The Star Tribune) Lawmakers may give cities throughout Minnesota the authority to ban some widely used pesticides – including neonicotinoids – as native bumble bee and pollinator populations continue to collapse. The recently-introduced measure would grant each city the choice to issue a blanket ban on a group of pesticides that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has labeled as lethal to pollinators.

EPA proposing to reapprove use of neonics

Image of tractor in field.

(Center for Biological Diversity) Rather than banning the pesticides, the EPA is proposing a number of modest measures to limit their harm, including reductions in amounts applied to crops and restrictions on when they can be applied to blooming crops. A major scientific review published in 2019 found that a “serious reduction in pesticide usage” is key to preventing the extinction of up to 41 percent of the world’s insects within the “next few” decades. Thousands of scientific studies implicate neonics as key contributors to declining pollinator populations. The EPA’s own scientists have found that neonics pose far-reaching risks to bees, birds and aquatic invertebrates.

When is a pesticide not a pesticide? When it coats a seed

Image of farmers looking at coated seeds.

(Bloomberg Environment) If you apply a chemical to a field of crops, either from a sprayer towed behind a tractor or from above, by an aerial crop duster, that is considered a pesticide. However, if you take that same chemical and coat it on a seed, then plant that seed in the ground, it ceases to be pesticide – at least according to government regulators. This exemption is what allowed the use of neonics to take off in the late 1990s. But this exemption was never meant for agriculture.

The pesticide industry’s playbook for poisoning the Earth

Illustration of a swarm of pollinators.

(The Intercept) Lobbying documents and emails obtained by The Intercept show a vast strategy by the pesticide industry to influence academics, beekeepers, and regulators, and to divert attention away from the potential harm caused by neonicotinoids. As a result, the global neonics industry generated $4.42 billion in 2018. In the meantime, the effects are being seen in massive insect die-offs. Certain insects are nearing extinction.

Insecticides becoming more toxic to honey bees

Image of bee on leaf tip.

(PennState) During the past 20 years, insecticides applied to U.S. agricultural landscapes have become significantly more toxic — over 120-fold in some midwestern states — to honey bees when ingested, according to a team of researchers, who identified rising neonicotinoid seed treatments in corn and soy as the primary driver of this change.