Pollinators and the Environment

Pollinators and the Environment


The need for organic agriculture is more urgent than ever. Bees and butterflies are disappearing, climate change threatens future food security and our water is polluted with toxic chemicals.

Bees are the canaries in the corn field — their death warns us that the way we’re growing food is on a fatal track. Pesticides are a key culprit in the decline of bees, butterflies and other pollinators, leading some scientists to warn of a “second silent spring” and the potential for ecosystem collapse.

Pesticides also wreak havoc on the soil by killing the organisms that are the basis of soil life. And they pollute rivers, lakes and oceans, leading to fish die-offs. Pesticides are the cornerstone of an industrial agriculture system that consumes fossil fuels, water and topsoil at unsustainable rates. The United Nations estimates that industrial agriculture costs the world $3 trillion annually in environmental damage. Eliminating dangerous chemicals and polluting practices from our food system is key to protecting vital natural resources like clean water and soil, healthy oceans and the biodiversity that is essential for producing food now and in the future. 

So much is at stake, but we already have the solution. Experts agree that a rapid transition to organic and ecological farming can help protect the ecosystems that sustain all life.

Environmental Impacts Of Pesticides Detected in the Organic For All Study

Pesticide class

Environmental impacts


  • Toxic to wildlife, including pollinators, birds and aquatic organisms.
  • Toxic to non-target and beneficial insects.


  • Deadly to insects and aquatic organisms at tiny concentrations, including endangered species.
  • Scientists warn of a “second silent spring” due to massive declines in insect and bird populations linked to neonicotinoids.,
  • Persist in the environment, creating long-term toxicity in ecosystems.
  • Toxic to non-target and beneficial insects.


  • Extremely toxic to aquatic organisms.
  • Moderately toxic to birds.
  • Toxic to non-target and beneficial insects.

2,4-D phenoxy herbicide

  • Can harm salmon and other aquatic organisms and is moderately toxic to birds.
  • Toxic to aquatic plants and can negatively impact wetlands.
  • Toxic to non-target and beneficial insects.

Glyphosate (aka Roundup)

  • A primary driver of the decimation of monarch populations; widespread use has led to a major decline in milkweed, the food that monarch young depend on.
  • Associated with harm to honeybees; can disrupt honeybee gut microbiomes, affect larval development, increase colony vulnerability to pathogen infestation, reduce productivity, and impair honeybee navigation.
  • The most widely used pesticide in the world. Along with agricultural uses, it is also used extensively on yards, schoolgrounds, parks, golf courses, and other public places.
Organic Farming Is a Climate Solution

A massive transition to organic practices can be a key part of the climate solution. Organic farms use less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions, in large part because they are not dependent on petroleum-based chemicals or synthetic fertilizers, which are extremely energy-intensive to produce. Organic farms also help pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the soils (a process known as carbon sequestration), a critical climate change mitigation strategy. Organic farming has also been shown to yield more in times of weather extremes like drought and floods. It also conserves water resources, which means organic farmers are more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Organic Farming Is Good for the Birds and Bees

Organic farmers foster biodiversity both above ground and in the soil beneath our feet. Organic farms help protect pollinators like bees and butterflies, essential to one in three bites of food we eat. They support up to 50 percent more pollinating species than pesticide-intensive farms and they help other beneficial insects flourish. Below ground, just one teaspoon of compost-rich organic soil can host as many as one billion helpful bacteria from 15,000 species. On the flip side, one teaspoon of soil treated with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers may have as few as 100 helpful bacteria — that’s 10 million times less. Organic farming also protects clean water. While chemical-intensive agriculture leads to poisoned rivers, algae blooms and oceanic dead zones, studies show that organic farming can protect waterways from agricultural runoff and its harmful effects.