Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

A bee lands on a wild sunflower along the Eaton Canyon Trail in Pasadena, California on March 29, 2019. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

'Alarming' Explosion of Toxic Pesticide Use Causing Insect Apocalypse in United States: Study

"Insect abundance has declined 45 percent. This is a global crisis—we must ban neonics to save the bees!"

Jake Johnson

The rapid and dangerous decline of the insect population in the United States—often called an "insect apocalypse" by scientists—has largely been driven by an increase in the toxicity of U.S. agriculture caused by the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS One.

"We need to rapidly shift our food system away from dependence on harmful pesticides and toward organic farming methods that work with nature rather than against it."
—Kendra Klein, Friends of the Earth

The study found that American agriculture has become 48 times more toxic to insects over the past 25 years and pinned 92 percent of the toxicity increase on neonicotinoids, which were banned by the European Union last year due to the threat they pose to bees and other pollinators.

Kendra Klein, Ph.D., study co-author and senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth, said the United States must follow Europe's lead and ban the toxic pesticides before it is too late.

"It is alarming that U.S. agriculture has become so much more toxic to insect life in the past two decades," Klein said in a statement. "We need to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees and other insects that are critical to biodiversity and the farms that feed us."

"Congress must pass the Saving America's Pollinators Act to ban neonicotinoids," Klein added. "In addition, we need to rapidly shift our food system away from dependence on harmful pesticides and toward organic farming methods that work with nature rather than against it."

According to National Geographic, neonics "are used on over 140 different agricultural crops in more than 120 countries. They attack the central nervous system of insects, causing overstimulation of their nerve cells, paralysis, and death."

With insect populations declining due to neonic use, "the numbers of insect-eating birds have plummeted in recent decades," National Geographic reported. "There's also been a widespread decline in nearly all bird species."

As Common Dreams reported in February, scientists warned in a global analysis that by decimating insect populations, widespread use of pesticides poses a serious threat to the planet's ecosystems and ultimately to the survival of humankind.

Klein said the "good news" is that neonics are not at all necessary for food production.

"We have four decades of research and evidence that agroecological farming methods can grow our food without decimating pollinators," said Klein.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

UN Chief to New College Grads: To Help Save the Planet, 'Don't Work for Climate Wreckers'

"Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a commencement address to Seton Hall University graduates.

Jake Johnson ·


AOC Blasts Democratic Leaders for Boosting 'Pro-NRA Incumbent' Henry Cuellar

"This was an utter failure of leadership," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said hours after a gunman killed 19 children at a Texas elementary school.

Jake Johnson ·


'This Fight Isn't Over,' Says Cisneros as Cuellar Declares Victory in Razor-Close Primary

"This election is still too close to call, and we are still waiting for every ballot and eligible vote to be counted," said progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros.

Jake Johnson ·


After Kids Killed in Texas, Dems Declare 'Pass Gun Safety Legislation Now'

"Congress has a moral responsibility to end gun violence now," said Sen. Ed Markey. "To those who refuse to act, there are no excuses. Only complicity and shame."

Jessica Corbett ·


At Least 19 Children, 2 Adults Killed in Texas Elementary School Shooting

"This has become part of who we are as a country," said Julián Castro. "The free availability of guns has not made us safer in the United States or here in the state of Texas."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo