To protect global food systems, reduce the harmful effects of pesticides

Plan flying over corn crops
Finders holding single corn kernel

A single corn kernel treated with neonics has the potential to kill over 80,000 bees.

When the pesticide industry released neonicotinoids or “neonics” in the 1990s, they marketed the chemicals as safer and more effective than older insecticides. Now mounting evidence suggests that neonics—the most widely used pesticide worldwide—are decimating pollinators, with worrying implications for nature and food systems.

Neonics, which attack insects’ nervous systems, are coated onto crop seeds and absorbed by plants as they grow, making plants toxic from root to stem. But the pesticides don’t just exterminate “pests.” Since their introduction, bumblebee, butterfly, and other beneficial insect populations have plummeted, and US agriculture has become nearly 50 times more toxic to insect life. Studies have also linked neonics to collapsing fisheries, declining songbird numbers, and birth defects in white-tailed deer.

Still, the use of neonics has gone unchecked in the US, thanks to a legal loophole that exempts them from federal oversight. In response, WWF is supporting efforts urging the US Environmental Protection Agency to regulate neonics-treated crops. We’re also working to advance policies like the 2023 Farm Bill, which aims to prevent habitat loss, incentivize pesticide reductions, and increase funding for programs that make farming practices safer for people and the environment.

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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