A new study released April 6, 2021, in the Journal of Applied Ecology reveals that Roundup, the most widely used herbicide globally and the focus of recent lawsuits regarding non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, is not just a weedkiller but a bee killer as well.
This study is monumental because the decline of bee populations has been drastically declining since Roundup was introduced to our agriculture, landscaping industries, and backyard gardening in the late 1970s. In the US, the number of honey-bee colonies dropped from 6 million in 1947 to just 2.5 million in 2014. In 2015, Monsanto made nearly $4.76 billion in sales and $1.9 billion in gross profits from herbicide products, mostly Roundup.
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Between October 2018 and April 2019, about 40% of US honey bee colonies died, according to research from the University of Maryland. That's the highest winter bee loss in 13 years.
"We can't be sure, but in terms of numbers, we may have lost 50% or more of our insects since 1970 – it could be much more," ecologist Dave Goulson, the author of the new report.
The study was on honeybees, but one would expect the pesticide to affect other insects as well, raising concerns for the connection to the decline of all insects on earth and “ a catastrophic collapse of the Earth’s eco-systems,” according to Goulson.
A new report from the Somerset Wildlife Trust in the UK found that 41% of the world's 1 million known insect species are threatened with extinction. But claims by the manufacturers have long been made that Roundup does not harm bees. Because a significant amount of science showed that neonicotinoids harm bees, most of the advocacy focus went towards reducing neonicotinoids in farming.
This new study tested the mortality effects of spraying the world's most popular herbicide brand (Roundup®) directly onto bumblebees (Bombus Terrestris Audax).
The scientists tested Roundup® products, the consumer products Roundup® Ready‐To‐Use and Roundup® No Glyphosate, the agricultural product Roundup® ProActive, as well as another herbicide with the same active ingredient (glyphosate), Weedol®. The label recommended pesticide concentrations were applied to the bees using a Roundup® Ready‐To‐Use spray bottle.
According to the report, the bees exhibited 94% mortality with Roundup® Ready‐To‐Use® and 30% mortality with Roundup® ProActive®, over 24 hours Weedol® did not cause significant mortality, demonstrating that the active ingredient, glyphosate, is not the cause of the mortality. The 96% mortality caused by Roundup® No Glyphosate supports this conclusion. Dose‐dependent mortality caused by Roundup® Ready‐To‐Use, further confirms its acute toxicity. Roundup® products caused comprehensive matting of bee body hair, suggesting that surfactants, or other co‐formulants in the Roundup® products, may cause death by incapacitating the gas exchange system.
These mortality results demonstrate that Roundup® products pose a significant hazard to bees in agricultural and urban systems and that the exposure of the bees should be limited.
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The authors of the study, Edward A. Straw, Edward N. Carpentier, Mark J. F. Brown, go on to suggest that “label guidelines for all pesticides be altered to explicitly prohibit application to plants when bees are likely to be foraging on them.”
As bee flight and foraging patterns cannot be controlled, and drift can occur for miles, to follow this guidance, one would need to stop spraying Roundup altogether, especially in agriculture areas where farmers expect bees to support pollination of crops and in garden areas where homeowners have fruit trees, garden, and flowers that need pollination to proliferate and produce.
The authors also say, “ As current regulatory topical exposure toxicity testing inadequately assesses toxicity of herbicide products, we call for pesticide companies to release the full list of ingredients for each pesticide formulation, as lack of access to this information hampers research to determine safe exposure levels for beneficial insects in agroecosystems.”
Moms Across America calls for full disclosure of ingredients by requesting that the full formulation of all pesticides and herbicides be regulated for safety. Accurate EPA analysis for approval would require long-term independent studies on the full formulations of all pesticides and herbicide products with blood analysis on both genders of adults and larvae or fetuses toxicity and harm to endocrine systems.
Every third bite of food humans eat requires pollination. With severe weather increasingly threatening agriculture production, farmers and landscapers must not use unnecessary chemicals that further decrease food production by killing bees. Around the world, the movement to adopt organic regenerative farming practices is increasing and demonstrating that farming without the use of harmful agrochemicals is productive, increases water retention, raises organic matter and nutrients in the soil, decreases erosion, and reduces plant pests naturally.
The EPA must take Immediate action to revoke the license of glyphosate and ensure safety for all pollinators, insects, wildlife, and human life on earth. The science shows that we simply cannot afford to allow the use of Roundup to continue.