The results are, in and America loves popcorn! Each year, Americans consume around 4 billion gallons of popped popcorn, which calculates to each member of the U.S. population (319 million people) consuming roughly 12.5 gallons of popcorn each year.
But there’s a problem: Between 79 and 100 percent of the corn seeds planted in the United States were treated with neonicotinoids through a process called seed coating. A plant grown from a treated seed is completely toxic to insects (roots, leaves, stem, flowers, nectar, pollen, and guttation fluid); and even though only 5% of the chemical pesticide on the seed coating enters the plant. The remaining 95% enters the environment through seed dust or soil contamination and water runoff. The ease in which the toxic chemicals survive in the soil is what separates neonicotinoids from other types of insecticides. This unrelenting toxicity allows for easy transport via water, air, and dust to nearby habitats causing harm to a variety of species including the honey bee.
Prior to 2006—when neonicotinoids were beginning to be used on a nationwide scale—commercial beekeepers and honey producers typically anticipated losing fewer than 10% of their bees each year, mostly due to overwintering mortality. Losses of that magnitude were sustainable because they could be recovered by splitting hives, adding new queens, and other measures. Since 2006, however, overwintering losses have risen dramatically. While this correlation does not equate to causation, the trend is remarkable. Surveys conducted by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that 28% to 33% of total honey bee colonies died each winter from 2007 to 2011.30 Winter losses dipped to 22% in 2012, but the 2013 survey indicated 31% of colonies died.31 Compounding these overwintering losses is a marked increase in summer mortality, the season when bee populations should be thriving.
Scientific data suggests that one-third of the food people eat (and a higher proportion of nutrient rich foods) come from crops that will not make fruit or seed unless they are pollinated. Not only could the dwindling bee population cause devastation in maintaining our food supply, our economy would suffer too. The USDA notes the large economic impact of such losses,
“…since 2006 an estimated 10 million bee hives at an approximate current value of $200 each have been lost, and the total replacement costs of $2 billion dollars has been borne by the beekeepers alone [emphasis added].”32 That statement refers to a six-year period, thus a rough estimate of annual replacement cost is about $300 million per year. This magnitude of annual uninsured losses is unsustainable.”
What is it about the use of neonicotinoid-coated seeds that outweigh the possible environmental and economic destruction if we were to lose our bee population? It turns out, well, nothing. After reviewing 19 peer-reviewed articles from scientific journals studying the relationship between the use of neonicotinoid treatments and the actual yields of corn, as well as the other major US crops, canola, wheat, soybeans and dry beans, The Center for Food and Safety concluded that neonicotinoid insecticides do not provide significant crop yield benefit:
- • Neonicotinoids either did not provide a yield benefit (8 studies13), or provided an inconsistent yield benefit (11 studies14).
- • Using neonicotinoids frequently does not provide an economic benefit to farmers compared to alternative control methods or not treating fields when pest pressure is minimal.
- • Efficacy of neonicotinoids varies and is difficult to predict, especially for pests that emerge around the same time in the season that the bioactivity of neonicotinoids declines.
With no benefit and the potential for devastating consequences for bees and the planet, neonicotinoid use needs to stop. Pop Weaver has already agreed to stop using them, and activists are urging Pop Secret and other popcorn makers to follow suit. Sign the petition here to add your voice.