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Neonicotinoid Insecticides Harmful to Birds and Bees Found in Congressional Cafeteria Food


Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides in the nation. Unfortunately, they are highly toxic to birds, invertebrates, and other wildlife. As this report reveals, these insecticides are also pervasive in the foods we eat, including in the dining halls of the U.S. Congress.

American Bird Conservancy teamed with scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Pesticide Research Institute to test 66 food samples from Congressional dining halls. The laboratory analysis revealed neonicotinoids in 91% of foods tested. Foods with the highest residues were cherry toma - toes, honeydew melons, and yellow squash. Most foods contained multiple different insecticides, with up to five different insecticides detected in fresh-squeezed orange juice and green bell peppers. It is not possible to remove these residues by washing, as they are integrated throughout the plant tissue.

While none of the levels of neonicotinoid residues in the foods sampled in this study exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Reference Doses (the dose U.S. EPA considers acceptable based on laboratory studies), clinical research from Japan indicates that adverse effects may be observed at doses lower than U.S. EPA’s reference doses.

The use of neonicotinoid sprays and soil drenches on fruit and vegetable crops is widespread, but the chemicals’ presence on fresh produce represents only a small fraction of the total pounds applied in the U.S. These insecticides also are used as seed coatings on hundreds of millions of acres of commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, and sunflowers, to the detriment of birds, bees, and other pollinators. Yet studies show there is often little or no increase in agricultural yields.