Neonicotinoids, Glyphosate & Organophosphates

A growing body of science implicates pesticides called neonicotinoids and glyphosate — made by giant chemical companies Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto — as key factors in their decline.

Neonicotinoids (aka neonics) are one of the most common pesticides used in agriculture and are also used extensively by home and garden centers. Unbeknownst to consumers, many “bee-friendly” garden plants have been pre-treated with these bee-killing pesticides. Exposure to neonics can kill bees directly and also makes them more susceptible to other impacts like pests, diseases, loss of habitat and a changing climate.

Glyphosate (a.k.a. Monsanto’s Roundup®) is the most widely used herbicide in the world. In the United States, glyphosate is wiping out milkweed, which monarch butterflies rely on as the only food for their young. Use of glyphosate has increased dramatically in the past two decades since Monsanto launched its genetically engineered Roundup®-Ready corn, soy, canola and cotton.

Organophosphates are a class of toxic nerve agent pesticides that threaten human health and the environment. The EPA was set to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos (an organophosphate) nationwide until the Trump administration reversed that decision. This class of pesticides is so toxic that even the smallest doses lower children’s IQs, increase risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and learning disabilities, and structurally change the parts of the brain that control language and memory. Organophosphates are toxic to wildlife, including pollinators, birds and aquatic organisms — and chlorpyrifos poses a risk to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species.

The European Union suspended the use of three neonics after a scientific review found they pose an unacceptably high risk to bees. In contrast, the EPA has been dragging its feet. Despite receiving more than six million public comments urging swift protections for bees, the agency delayed action on most uses of neonics until at least 2019.

In the absence of federal action, states are leading the way —  MarylandConnecticut and Minnesota have passed landmark legislation to protect pollinators.

 Learn more about our work to protect pollinators.