The seed treatment on corn seeds is much more deadly than what we realized.
I was shocked the other week when we received an email exposing how the pesticide and fungicide usage on most of our country’s corn crop is killing honey bees. In the early part of May of this year, beekeepers reported staggering losses of honey bees in Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio, after their hives foraged near pesticide-treated corn fields. The seed corn is treated with pesticides and fungicides. The neonicotinoid pesticides are very deadly to honey bees. Just one gram can kill 11 million to 22 million honey bees. When combined with fungicides, they are 10 times more deadly than when used alone! The coated corn seeds are sticky, so talc is added to the seeds to make them flow better in the corn planter. However, the powdery talc is readily carried by the wind to plants and areas beside the corn fields where bees are foraging. The talc is contaminated with these neonicotinoids and fungicides and the dead bees test positive for these chemicals. The source for this information is a new report released by Purdue University this year –
We are used to change in technology and society. But what we are not used to is rapid change behind our backs in our food. Everything appears to be the same as before, but it is not. In the last 15 years there have been significant changes in the way corn and other crops are grown that we are unaware of. Genetically modified plants are only one part of the problem.
From the Huffington Post – “Bee Kills in the Corn Belt: What’s GE Got to Do With It?” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-pilatic/bee-kills-in-the-corn-bel_b_1520757.html
“Over the last 15 years, U.S. corn cultivation has gone from a crop requiring little-to-no insecticides and negligible amounts of fungicides, to a crop where the average acre is grown from seeds treated or genetically engineered to express three different insecticides (as well as a fungicide or two) before being sprayed prophylactically with RoundUp (an herbicide) and a new class of fungicides that farmers didn’t know they “needed” before the mid-2000s.
A series of marketing ploys by the pesticide industry undergird this story. It’s about time to start telling it, if for no other reason than to give lie to the oft-repeated notion that there is no alternative to farming corn in a way that poisons pollinators. We were once — not so long ago — on a very different path.
How corn farming went off the rails
“In the early 1990s, we were really good at growing corn using bio-intensive integrated pest management (bio-IPM). In practice, that meant crop rotations, supporting natural predators, using biocontrol agents like ladybugs and as a last resort, using chemical controls only after pests had been scouted for and found. During this time of peak bio-IPM adoption, today’s common practice of blanketing corn acreage with “insurance” applications of various pesticides without having established the need to do so would have been unthinkable. It’s expensive to use inputs you don’t need, and was once the mark of bad farming.
“Then, in the mid-to-late 1990s, GE corn and neonicotinoid (imidacloprid) seed treatments both entered the market — the two go hand-in-hand, partly by design and partly by accident…
“Then, as if on cue, Monsanto introduced three different strains of patented, GE corn between 1997 and 2003 (RoundUp Ready, and two Bt-expressing variants aimed at controlling the European Corn Borer and corn root worm). Clothianidin entered the U.S. market under conditional registration in 2003, and in 2004 corn seed companies began marketing seeds treated with a 5X level of neonicotinoids (1.25 mg/seed vs. .25). [Each seed has enough to kill 9,000 – 18,000 bees. – Myron]
“… and in the space of a decade, U.S. corn acreage undergoes a ten-fold increase in average insecticide use. By 2007, the average acre of corn has more than three systemic insecticides — both Bt traits and a neonicotinoid. Compare this to the early 1990s, when only an estimated 30-35 percent of all corn acreage were treated with insecticides at all.”
“When I spoke with one Iowa corn farmer in January and told him about the upcoming release of a Purdue study confirming corn as a major pesticide exposure route for bees, his face dropped with worn exasperation. He looked down for a moment, sighed and said, ‘You know, I held out for years on buying them GE seeds, but now I can’t get conventional seeds anymore. They just don’t carry ’em.'”
It used to be that pesticide sprays were sprayed on the surface of plants, fruits and vegetables to kill bugs. But in more recent years, systemic insecticides have been developed and are being widely used. Systemic insecticides and fungicides work by going into the plant and traveling through the entire plant and fruit or vegetable. Any bug that eats the plant is killed. It also keeps insects from eating the fruit or vegetable. There is no way to wash off a systemic insecticide or fungicide from a fruit or vegetable the way it was possible in the past. The insecticide and fungicide has become part of the food.
We found out about the killer corn one day after we had planted some sweet corn we purchased from Southern States. We had planted three different varieties of organic sweet corn seed that we purchased from Fedco.com. The Honey Select variety had basically 0% germination. Being ignorant of what was on the seed coating of sweet corn, we purchased a pound of the Incredible variety sweet corn and planted eight, 80 foot rows of Incredible sweet corn where the Honey Select had been planted. I thought that the pink seed coating was just something bad tasting to keep the birds from eating it. I could not read on the package what the seed treatment on the sweet corn seed was, so I went to Southern States to find out. I was concerned that we might have planted something that would kill our bees. It had five different fungicides! – Apron, Captan, Dividend, Thiram, and Vitavax! Apron is a systemic fungicide. I felt disgusted and betrayed. We waited until the corn started coming up and we dug it all up. The picture above shows the pink fungicide loaded seed still there, putting its chemicals into the plant.
One of the things that farmers across the US are complaining about is that they cannot buy bee friendly corn seed. Almost everything is genetically modified and treated with pesticides and fungicides. About the only way to get untreated seeds is to buy organic seeds or for a farmer to save his own seeds.
What this means is that the “All Natural” label on chicken, eggs, and other foods with corn ingredients is probably a bogus or misleading claim on most products. Non-GMO corn is not safe if the seeds have been treated with systemic fungicides and neonicotinoid pesticides.
I wish farmers knew how to grow high brix, nutrient dense corn. They could eliminate the chemicals, lower their production costs and provide a far superior food for their fellow human beings. It can be done. Last year we produced high brix sweet corn that had very few bugs. Instead, legal bio-terrorism on the farm is killing our honey bees, poisoning our food, and giving us poor quality food that is making us sick. Sick Care (Health Care) in America is the #1 industry. We are what we eat. Health begins in the soil and in the seed.
We need to help each other in these changing times and keep each other informed so that things do not unknowingly get changed behind our backs. Ignorance is not bliss when it affects our health or the health of our family and friends. Most people are ignorant about their food. I am amazed at how little most people know. They assume that all food is basically the same and that cheapest is best. The other day, I was getting gas in Pennsylvania, and the man at the pump next to me wondered what I was hauling on my trailer. I told him it was organic protein concentrate for our chicken feed. He asked, “What is organic?” in a way that showed he was clueless to what organic really is and as if organic was just something unimportant and more expensive. I was surprised that a 60-year-old man was so clueless about his food. Times have changed and he is still assuming that they are the same.
Other articles about corn and honey bees: