Insecticide Seed Treatments Threaten The Midwestern Waterways

Excerpted from: Insecticide Seed Treatments Threaten Wisconsin Waterways by Xerces

Drawing of a bee pollinating a sunflower The dramatic rise in planting seeds treated with insecticides means that the water heading for the Great Lakes is likely carrying insecticides with it. These insecticides are threatening the health of Midwestern waterways, not just in Wisconsin, but throughout the region.

These higher concentrations happened after planting of mostly corn and soybeans and then in summer other types of broadcast applications.”

A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey found at pesticides 70% of samples from Great Lakes streams potentially threatening aquatic insects — and the fish and birds that eat them.

Midwestern waterways are alive with beneficial invertebrates, but these essential species are threatened by a wide variety of contaminants. When aquatic insects decline, the effects can be far-reaching and ripple up the food chain: fish and birds rely on aquatic insects for their food. Migratory birds that stop in Midwestern waters on their journeys north are particularly at risk if they cannot find sufficient food in the spring.

Insecticide Seed Treatments

Seed companies have increasingly applied systemic Neonicotinoid (Neonics) insecticides to crop seeds.
The Neonics are absorbed by the plants and transferred through the plant's vascular system, making the plant toxic to insects.
Neonic residues have been found in pollen and nectar which are consumed by pollinators,
Neonics can persist in waterways and soils for months or years.

Across the Midwest, insecticides are being found in waterways at levels that threaten aquatic ecosystems and the wildlife and people that rely on them. Regulators can provide incentives and research on alternate pest management, seed companies can offer more options without insecticides, farmers can turn to other proven pest management strategies, and everyone can advocate for policies that support sustainable pest management strategies, ultimately benefiting the waterways we all share.

With all hands on deck, we can reduce the threat that seed treatment insecticides pose to waterways across the Midwest and around the country.

Neonics and Pollinators

Graphic showing how neonics affect bees

Neonics have led to mass deaths of pollinators. It is one of the major factors that put 1 in 4 of North America’s 4,000 bee species at risk of extinction.

Their loss is our loss, and that’s not an overstatement. One hundred percent of almonds, for example, are pollinated by bees, while 90% of apples, blueberries, and avocados are also the fruits of bees’ labor. If bees are taken out of the agricultural system, the cost of fruits and vegetables could multiply ten-fold, pricing out vulnerable communities from any access to crucial sources of nutrition.

Our food system is threatened because pollinators are in trouble.

Bees flying footer graphic