Is Corporate Agriculture Poisoning Our World?

The worship of Mammon is killing God’s creation! A catastrophic collapse in the number of flying insects- including the bees that are crucial to our food production, has been confirmed in a major study by researchers at Radboud University in The Netherlands. The results, published this week, indicate that the European insect population has fallen by three-quarters in less than 30 years.

They account for two-thirds of life on earth, and a plentiful and active bug population is indicative of a healthy planet, so rapidly diminishing numbers are ominous. One scientist, Professor Dave Goulson, at Sussex University, is warning the world is ‘on course for ecological armageddon’.

Some 10 per cent of the world’s food production depends on insect pollinators. A 2015 study by scientists at Reading University estimated bees contribute £651 million to the UK economy annually by crop pollination (that’s £150 million more than the Royal Family brings in through tourism).

The contribution of insects to human survival has long been recognised.

In 1901, the Belgian writer and Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck warned: ‘If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.’ And while much has been written about the plummeting bee numbers in recent years, the new findings are a stark warning of the reality of Maeterlinck’s prediction.

So what is the cause? The Dutch researchers, whose work is published in the journal Plos One, focused on 63 nature reserves in Germany but say their findings can be extrapolated across all European landscapes dominated by agriculture.

They found the dramatic decline is happening regardless of habitat, land use or the weather, leaving them at a loss to explain what lies behind it.

The scientific evidence points to neonicotinoid insecticides. These novel insect killers employ a sophisticated form of chemical warfare that stops brain cells working, leading to paralysis and death.

Before 2000, neonicotinoid chemicals were virtually unknown. Yet in the space of 20 years they’ve become the most widely used class of agricultural insecticides.

This is despite the fact two vital questions remain unanswered: what do they do to wild bees (as opposed to bees farmed for honey or used in lab experiments)? And what do they do to humans?

There is certainly cause for concern. A 2016 study by Dr Ben Woodcock, an insect ecologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxford, found the use of neonicotinoid chemicals on oilseed rape crops was tripling the extinction rate of wild bee colonies in the UK.

Other investigations show the number of queen bees drops by up to 85 per cent in areas subjected to neonicotinoid chemical use — and surviving queens may produce broods half their normal size.

Honey bees exposed to the chemicals suffer crippling damage to their ability to learn and remember.

‘The sheer loss of pollinators shown in this Dutch study is deeply worrying,’ Dr Woodcock said yesterday. ‘Of all the insects in the world, only some 100 species have been identified as our key pollinators. That’s a very small number to lose. And once we start losing them, there is no guarantee that they will come back.’

In humans, the sparse medical research is worrying. The journal Environmental Health Perspectives reviewed the available evidence — only eight medical studies, none of which has examined what happens to humans who consume the pesticides in food. It concluded we are experiencing ‘widespread exposure through fruits and vegetables’ to these chemicals.

There is early research evidence that shows children born to people exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides may have an increased risk of congenital heart defects, autism spectrum disorders and even lethal brain-developmental problems, while in adults exposure has been linked with memory loss and tremors.

Properly targeted, large studies on humans are desperately needed. The pesticides’ manufacturers, meanwhile, argue there are no problems in humans, and little or no cause for concern with pollinating insects.

But the EU was sufficiently worried to impose a moratorium on the use of three key neonicotinoid insecticides in 2013.

Earlier this month, Swiss scientists announced they had tested honey samples from around the world — including Europe — and found three-quarters of the samples contained at least one type of neonicotinoid pesticide.

In nearly half of the contaminated samples, the neonicotinoids were at levels high enough to poison bees’ brains.

 Frighteningly, when they have been sprayed on seeds, neonicotinoids spread throughout the plant and into the earth.

Next month, the European Food Safety Authority will decide if the evidence warrants a total ban on neonicotinoids.

But even if our pollinators do survive this latest wave of chemical devastation, Dr Woodcock warns pesticides are only one factor in a cocktail of problems that are wiping out flying insects.

Intensive farming is a major threat because it destroys the natural habitats that are vital to their life cycles.

Well-meaning attempts are being made to persuade intensive farmers to try to work with nature in order to grow profitably perfect crops.

But economics is against this, and agro-conglomerates are reluctant to ditch pesticides in favour of the hit-and-miss of re-introducing natural insect predators to their fields in the hope they will keep pests such as aphids at bay.

‘How we achieve improvements is going to be very complicated,’ says Dr Woodcock.

‘Nowadays, huge modern farms have only a few people working them, and they depend heavily on pesticides and machinery. We can’t go back to the old days of having huge swathes of agricultural labourers working the fields.’

Some other environmental problems have been exaggerated, or even invented, to create pressure for global governance. But this one seems genuine. And the answer to it is at local or national level – legislation to bring the corporations to heel, coupled with changes in farming practices. So there seems to be no vested interest in creating a ‘scare’ on this subject. To us, it looks all too real!

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