Pesticides in honey at 'alarming' levels

Alexandre Aebi inspecting one of his hives in his apiary in Switzerland

"What this shows is the magnitude of the contamination", the study's lead author, Edward Mitchell, a biology professor at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, told the Denver Post.

"The increasingly documented sublethal effects of neonicotinoid pesticides at environmentally relevant concentrations on bees", the researchers note, "include growth disorders, reduced efficiency of the immune system, neurological and cognitive disorders, respiratory and reproductive function, queen survival, foraging efficiency", and decreased homing capacity.

Results of the study has been published on an October issue of the journal Science.

"In total, 75 % of all honey samples contained at least one neonicotinoid, "according to this study piloted at the swiss university of Neuch√Ętel". Almost half of all the honey samples showed more than two types of neonics, and 10 percent had four or more.

'What we don't know is whether there are long-term, chronic effects from lifetime exposure to a cocktail of these and other pesticides in our honey and most other foods'. Honeybees don't just make honey; about one-third of the human diet comes from plants that are pollinated by the insects.

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In 2013, the European Union began a temporary ban on the use of three neonicotinoids on crops visited by bees, and is considering a comprehensive ban on the use of the pesticides in all outdoor fields.

The honey of North America was a dismal figure: the samples drawn from the continent were contaminated in 86% of cases, compared with 57 % of those from South America.

The study found that almost half of the honey samples exceeded a level of the pesticide that some previous research said weakens bees, but the pesticide makers say otherwise.

"I used to think of neonicotinoids as being a [localized] problem next to a small set of crops", says Amro Zayed, who studies bees at York University in Toronto and wasn't involved in the research. Their widespread application has been identified in numerous scientific studies as the key factor in the steep decline of all pollinators, particularly bees.

Nearly half of all samples globally, contained more than one type of the pesticides, evidence that bees were often foraging in multiple sites affected by pesticides.

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