Tag Archives: pesticides

Deadly Pesticide May Yet Be Outlawed

Deadly Pesticide May Yet Be Outlawed

American Bird Conservancy 25 July 2017

We applaud the U.S. Senators who today introduced a bill to ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide that has been killing birds and poisoning the environment for the past half-century: Tom Udall (D-NM)Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA). We’re also grateful to Representatives Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), who have offered a companion bill in the House.

The “Protect Children, Farmers & Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act” would prohibit all chlorpyrifos use by amending the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that oversees food safety.

Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate related to sarin nerve gas, is used in production of common crops such as strawberries, apples, citrus, and broccoli. In addition to the pesticide’s well-known threats to human health, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is concerned about the pesticide’s effects on birds, including to declining species like the Mountain Plover (shown). A recent draft biological evaluation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that chlorpyrifos is likely to adversely affect 97 percent of all wildlife, including more than 100 listed bird species listed under the Endangered Species Act.

ABC has been calling for a ban on the use of chlorpyrifos for years. EPA scientists agreed and were on course to ban the pesticide from use on all crops. In March 2017, however, the EPA administrator reversedw the recommendation of the agency’s own scientists and extended chlorpyrifos’ registration for another five years.

“It’s high time to outlaw the use of chlorpyrifos. It’s well known that this pesticide is lethal to birds, other wildlife, and people,” said Cynthia Palmer, ABC’s Pesticide Program Director. “We’re encouraged by the leadership shown today in Congress.”

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Decline in hummingbird population linked to insecticide

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(Terri Theodore 9 July 2017; Photo Darryl Dyck)

VANCOUVER — Some species of North American hummingbirds are in severe decline and a British Columbia research scientist says one possible cause might be the same insecticide affecting honey bees.

Christine Bishop with Environment and Climate Change Canada said researchers started looking at a variety of factors that may be responsible, ranging from habitat loss to changes when plants bloom.

To try and find some answers, researchers began collecting urine and feces from the birds for testing.

“No one has ever measured pesticides in hummingbirds before. So we decided to try it,” she said in an interview. “It turns out, to our surprise actually, that the birds are obviously picking up pesticides in their food, which can be nectar and also insects.”

Bishop said the concentration found in the urine is relatively high at three parts per billion.

“Now what does it mean? Right now we’re just understanding what the level of exposure is, and then how is it affecting the population, well that’s part of the population dynamics,” she said.

Her research is focused in the agricultural regions in the Fraser Valley and southern B.C. — the core area for the rufous hummingbird.

The rufous is a feisty, red-throated bird that weighs about as much as a nickel and spends its summers in B.C., Alaska and the Pacific Northwest states, then migrates to the southern United States and Mexico.

The testing doesn’t harm the birds. Researchers hang a net over a feeder and then lower it like a drape when the bird comes to feed.

Because the hummingbird is constantly processing nectar, it is also constantly expelling it, and Bishop said by the time they are banded the bird has likely expelled urine and feces to test.

The annual breeding bird survey shows that between 1966 and 2013, the rufous population on the Pacific Coast dropped an average of 2.67 per cent per year. The survey says the Allen’s and broad-tailed hummingbirds were also in decline.

Health Canada is re-evaluating the use of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide used in on a large number of agricultural crops and at home on fleas or ticks on cats and dogs.

Health Canada says they are aware of Bishop’s work and will consider information she passed on during a consultation period as part of its re-evaluation. Health Canada says in its statement it expects to publish its findings in 2018.

A separate Health Canada preliminary report issued in 2013 says imidacloprid has potential for short-and long-term effects on bees, including a change in behaviour and mortality.

Bishop is two years into a five-year study and said the next question that needs to be answered is whether pesticides could be a factor in the decline of hummingbirds.

“We can’t rule it out,” she said.

Like bees, hummingbirds return to the same place to find food and they remember where certain flowers are, said Bishop, adding there are concerns pesticides might disrupt their memory.

But researchers don’t think the decline is strictly an agricultural issue.

It could be habitat loss, or seasonal plants blooming at the wrong time of year, or even an increase in the deer population with the animals eating the same flowers the hummingbirds need for their food source, Bishop said.

The population of the Anna’s hummingbird is also increasing in the area as the birds move north. Bishop said given the bird’s territorial and aggressive nature, it’s possible they are forcing the rufous out.

“But what’s interesting about this is … more and more people are putting out feeders, yet the population is still declining.”