Issue Date: April 1, 2013
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors;
we borrow it from our children.
—Native American proverb
I have a comment on the article “Stinging Attack on Bee Study,” which reports the counterattack of Syngenta and Bayer to the conclusion of the European Food Safety Authority that those firms’ insecticides, clothianidin and imidacloprid, are responsible for killing Europe’s bee population (C&EN, Jan. 28, page 8).
It seems to me that a larger, more fundamental question needs to be addressed: Is it any longer ecologically responsible to produce and use “insecticides” at a multi-thousand-ton scale? Our goal is to protect our harvest from being eaten up by insects, but what we are really doing by spraying insecticides into nature is to systematically exterminate species from the environment. The result is an act against biodiversity.
The goal is a legitimate one but could be pursued in a variety of different ways—for example, by insect deterrents, which do not kill the harmful insects but simply drive them away from the harvest. All of today’s insecticides are nerve agents, which are indiscriminately toxic to any organism with a nerve system, including humans. Has there ever been a public study about the chronic toxicity of insecticides on human beings and about their possible criminal uses?
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