Pesticides Threaten Birds and Bees Alike, Study Says


Courtesy of

Neurotoxic pesticides blamed for the world’s bee collapse are also harming butterflies, worms, fish and birds, said a scientific review that called Tuesday for tighter regulation to curb their use.

Analysing two decades of reports on the topic, an international panel of 29 scientists found there was “clear evidence of harm” from use of two pesticide types, neonicotinoids and fipronil.

And the evidence was “sufficient to trigger regulatory action”.

“We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment,” said Jean-Marc Bonmatin of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, co-author of the report entitled the Worldwide Integrated Assessment.

Far from protecting food production, these nerve-targeting insecticides known as neonics were “imperilling the pollinators, habitat engineers and natural pest controllers at the heart of a functioning ecosystem.”

The four-year assessment was carried out by The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which advises the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s watchdog on species loss.

Neonics are widely used insecticides whose effects can be instant and lethal, or chronic. Exposure can impair smell and memory in some species, curb procreation, reduce foraging, cause flight difficulties and increase disease susceptibility.

Used for insect pest management in farming, but also in pet flea control, they have been fingered in the recent decline in bees—crucial pollinators of human food crops—in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

The latest study says these pesticides, absorbed by plants, are also harming other insect pollinators, fish and birds as they leach into soil and water.

The most affected species were terrestrial invertebrates such as earthworms, which are crucial soil-enrichers, said a press statement. Continue reading

How Many Fish?

A great article from Dominic Frisby &

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.

On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, spend more — even if that means spending money it doesn’t have. On the other hand, there are those who think government should stand aside, cut its spending, and let the private sector create the growth we’re told we need.

It is this issue that’s at the heart of the so-called austerity debate in the U.K.; it’s this issue that’s at the heart of the clash between Germany and southern Europe; it’s this issue that’s at the heart of the furor of debts, deficits, and the tea party movement in the U.S.

Is increased government spending — what some call “Keynesian economics,” though I wonder whether Keynes would now approve — the way out of this crisis? Or could it actually be the cause?

Let’s boil it down to a simple moral question:

If you are the government and a man is hungry, do you:

(A) Give him fish?

(B) Give him a rod and teach him to fish?

(C) Mind your own business?

I imagine most would instinctively go with B. That way you “feed him for a lifetime.” (By the way, the saying isn’t, as many think, Chinese, but has its roots in Mrs. Dymond, a 19th-century novel by Anne Ritchie, daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray.) Let’s consider the alternatives. Continue reading

Overfishing doesn’t just shrink fish populations—they often don’t recover afterwards

Proving harmony and balance are important in our life, courtesy of

Thanks to surging demand for seafood and woefully inaccurate catch reporting, overfishing is out of control. And new research now argues (paywall) that it’s a problem that, in many ecosystems, might be permanent.

By removing one of its species, overfishing “flips” an ecosystem into an “alternative state,” explains the University of Maine’s Robert Steneck, one of the report’s authors. It sets off a complex reshuffling among remaining species. Often, this “locks” the ecosystem into a “alternative stable state”—meaning, the species of fish can’t come back.

This could have devastating implications for the world’s food supply. “Ecosystem flips and locks that convert the ocean to a bacterial soup that favors jellyfish rather than finfish will not sustain the protein we need to feed the 9 [billion to] 11 billion people expected to show up on Earth over the coming decades,” says Mary Power, of the University of California, Berkeley, who co-authored the study. Here are some examples:

The Maine sea urchin’s boom and bust

In the 1980s, overfishing crashed the population of the North Atlantic’s once plentiful cod. Without cod to eat them, sea urchin populations exploded.


Continue reading