Yes, insecticides can kill insects, bees and birds. Let’s get that out of the way right off the bat. Shall we ban the use of all insecticides? My answer is no, but many environmental activists say yes.
Neonicotinoid insecticides are coming under harsh attack from environmental activists that want to blame this family of insecticides for depleting the world’s bee population. They now want to blame bird deaths on this class/family of insecticides.
The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) issued a call for the ban of neonicotinoid seed treatments following their sponsorship of a study by a toxicologist who titled his report: “The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds.”
It should have been no surprise that insecticide seed treatments have the potential to kill birds. Eating insecticide-coated seeds definitely would be hazardous to the health of a bird. To increase the impact of their nothing-new discovery, the ABC made sure to suggest the birds that might be killed are “song birds.” Nobody wants to kill a song bird.
The ABC further claims the Environmental Protection Agency is not requiring the right tests for determining toxicity plus it has “grossly underestimated the toxicity” of neonicotinoids.
Toxicologists and researchers working with crop protection companies have all the facts and counter arguments to contend there is very limited exposure to bees, birds and other animals by neonicotinoids.
I’m not a toxicologist, but I’ve been involved in reporting on product registration procedures with major crop protection companies. I oversaw the production of a stewardship manual for the use of a highly toxic insecticide. I’ve interviewed toxicologists who submit their findings to the EPA.
But most importantly, I’ve seen crops that were grown with and without insecticide seed treatments. I’ve seen the losses from crops that weren’t properly treated with insecticides. I’ve seen ag retailers using good stewardship in treating seeds, and I’ve seen farmers plant seed in the field using good practices to keep seed from being available for birds to eat.
Using seed treatments to grow more crops to feed more people is important. Is one starving human less important than the isolated death of a bird—most commonly an English/house sparrow, starling or other pest bird?