Sunday, 26 October 2008

Pesticides: The Birds & The Bees

We have touched on the subject of pesticides before in our artificial grass blog because of the potential hazard they pose to human health and the environment and there is no doubt that many people are now turning to artificial grass as a preferred alternative to real grass just so that they can avoid using pesticides on their lawn. That is great news ... but what about the birds and the bees? Yes, we mean that quite literally.

Recent reports suggest that both birds and bees are increasingly becoming unwitting victims of pesticide contamination and disastrous consequences loom on the horizon if the situation is not taken in hand with adequate counter measures.

Pesticides of course encompass many types of 'synthetic poisons' used in different applications - eg. insecticides (against insects), herbicides (against weeds), fungicides (against fungus) and so on. Using pesticide compounds releases chemiclas into the environment and with that is carried the inherent danger of harming 'innocent' inhabitants of gardens and farmland - hence the birds and bees reference.

Population declines in birds have been the subject of investigation for some time and detailed monitoring seems to indicate a strong connection between bird population crashes and pesticide contamination. The Smithsonian National Zoological Park has an excellent detailed web page entitled "When It Comes To Pesticides, Birds Are Sitting Ducks".

As for bees, there is growing global concern about the risks that pesticides pose to honey bees in particular. This summer honey bee keepers in southern Germany reported a wave of honey bee deaths linked to clothianidin (pesticide) and as a result the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection in Germany went as far as suspending the registration of eight pesticide seed treatments (used in sweet corn and oilseed rape). A couple of months later, an environmental advocacy group in the USA filed a lawsuit against the Federal Environmental Protection Agency on the grounds of withholding information about the risks posed to honey bees by pesticides. Serious action on both counts - and for good reason.

The balance of the world's eco system is already fragile so with every new report of damage to wildlife by pesticides we need to press for greater openness on the subject and support ideas to help solve the problem.

After all, where we would be without the birds and the bees?

Photograph: European honey bee - courtesy of Wikipedia's honey bee page