From Dr. Mercola:
Unbeknownst to many Americans, the majority of soybean, corn, canola, and sunflower seeds planted in the U.S. are pre-coated with neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics).
The chemicals, which are produced by Bayer and Syngenta, travel systemically through the plants and kill insects that munch on their roots and leaves.1 However, you can’t cover a plant seed with poison and expect it to be free of unintended consequences.
These pesticides are powerful neurotoxins, and have been blamed for decimating populations of non-target wildlife, including important pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
This occurs because the pesticides are taken up through the plant’s vascular system as it grows, and, as a result, the chemical is expressed in the pollen and nectar of the plant.
Certain bird species that feast on insects killed by neonicotinoids have also declined.2
Recent research also reveals that neonics can persist and accumulate in soils, and since they’re water-soluble, they leach into waterways where other types of wildlife may be affected.
As noted in a 2013 scientific review3 of neonicotinoids, “the prophylactic use of broad-spectrum pesticides goes against the long-established principles of integrated pest management, leading to environmental concerns.”
Neonics Provide No Significant Benefits or Gains for Farmers
According to an investigation4 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), published last year, treating soybean seeds with neonicotinoids provides no significant financial or agricultural benefits for farmers.
The researchers also noted there are several other foliar insecticides available that can combat pests as effectively as neonicotinoid seed treatments, with fewer risks.
As reported by Civil Eats,5 other studies suggest reducing the use of pesticides may actually reduce crop losses. The reason for this is because neonic-coated seeds harm beneficial insects that help kill pests naturally,6 thereby making any infestation far worse than it needs to be.
According to one study,7 ecologically-based farming that helps kill soybean aphids without pesticides could save farmers in four states (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) nearly $240 million in losses each year.
Despite such findings, farmers have very limited ability to avoid neonic-treated seeds.
Farmers Have Limited Ability to Avoid Pesticide-Treated Seeds
For starters, there’s a near-monopoly on seed, with a small number of seed companies ruling the entire industry, leaving farmers with virtually no choices. As reported by Civil Eats:8
“Starting in the 1990s, and continuing in the 2000s, the largest seed and pesticide companies went on a buying spree, gobbling up a large number of smaller seed companies …
The four largest seed companies control nearly 60 percent of the global patented seed market … This fact constrains farmers’ choices.
The consequences are illustrated by the increased ability of seed companies to charge excessively high prices for corn or soybean seed, and to supply pesticide-coated seeds exclusively, which contributes to those prices.”
In addition to simply eliminating untreated seed from their available seed offerings, another way seed companies push farmers into using treated seed is by limiting the crop insurance they can