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Neonicotinoids: The New DDT?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Honey Bee Health page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Genetic Engineering page.


Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides in the world. They've been linked to the decline of honeybees. But scientists now say they also harm many terrestrial, aquatic, and marine invertebrates. They damage sea urchin DNA, suppress the immune systems of crabs, and affect the tunneling and reproductive behavior of earthworms. They kill off the insects that many birds, amphibians, and reptiles rely on for food. According to Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society, through the widespread use of these pesticides "we are killing the underpinning of the food chain." In human blood studies, neonicotinoids are linked to DNA damage and cell mutation.

Neonicotinoids command 30% of the global insecticide market with sales of over $2.6 billion in 2009. Manufacturers argue that their pest-fighting power is indispensable to agriculture. They were introduced in the 1990s to replace more damaging insecticides. They are systemic and absorbed by the plant, making all parts of the plant - including nectar and pollen - toxic to pests.   

Neonicotinoids are widely used as seed treatments, applied as soil drench, or sprayed onto foliage. In the US, they are used on some 200 million acres of crop land - on almost all corn, canola, and half of all soybean crops as well as on many fruits and vegetables. They are also extensively used in home and garden products. They are persistent, water soluble, and now found in stream samples across the United States and Canada.


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