The death of insects and sick animals… Pesticides are eating up the living

Are pesticides dangerous to living organisms? ? At the request of the government, forty-six researchers worked on this issue for two years ; They compiled, compared, and analyzed more than 4,000 studies. The answer, announced Thursday, May 5, is three-letter: Yes, it pollutes all environments and weakens biodiversity. This observation is not new, but it is now supported by strong scientific experience.

This is the inventory of existing knowledge »Sophie Leinhardt, a researcher at the National Institute for Agricultural Research, Food and the Environment (Inrae), who carried out the work with the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer). The last collective experience of this scale dates back to 2005. The goal, according to Mme Leinhardt: Informing public discussion and action, without expressing an opinion or making recommendations. » At a time when the French state questions how to allocate millions of euros to the Common Agricultural Policy, this document nevertheless presents binding elements against intensive agriculture.

The spread of pollution in ecosystems

The report highlights Extensive pollution of ecosystems » By pesticides, especially in agricultural areas. Each year, between 55,000 and 70,000 tons of active phytopharmaceuticals are sold in France … and thus a large part of it ends up in the environment. This pollution It affects all media – soil, air and water – and contains a variety of substancessays Wilfred Sanchez, deputy scientific director for Ifremer. We find the active substances of pesticides, but we also find their transformative products and aids. »

For example, it uses glyphosate, one of the best-selling herbicides, with additives to enhance its effectiveness. ; And when the product degrades, a new molecule with the same toxicity, Ampa, is created. Plant protection products are found even in the seas, along the coasts, but also on the sea floornotes Mr. Sanchez. until we found DDT [un insecticide interdit en France depuis 1972] Hundreds of kilometers away, in areas close to the poles. » Small consolation, banned products see that their concentration is decreasing little by little.

Glyphosate bedwetting tools show the concentration of herbicides in urine, in 2018. © Julie Lallouët-Geffroy / Reporterre

However, it is still difficult to determine the degree of contamination. The diversity of the analyzed substances is still limited in relation to those likely to be present – 294 active substances and more than 1,500 commercial preparations are currently permitted in France.The report insists. Not many materials have been searched for, especially among the materials recently launched on the market. » The only certainty: This widespread contamination interferes with many organisms – even in human urine.

Amphibians and dolphins will get sick more easily

Unsurprisingly, this impregnation weakens all living things. Threatened first, those who live not far from the fields: bees, bumblebees, ladybirds, butterflies, birds … Available studies confirm that plant protection products are one of the main causes of population decline. » Insects, birds, aquatic invertebrates … summarizes Stephane Bisset, researcher in environmental toxicology at INRAe. At the European level, it is estimated that pollution could lead to losses of up to 40 % inside macro invertebrates [larves ou mollusques] water. »

These chemicals do not only kill living organisms. They have many semi-lethal effectsrefers to Mr. Pesce, This means that it disturbs the organism », without being fatal. Loss of orientation, immunodeficiency, modulation of reproduction… More and more unexpected effects are highlighted with no clear relationship with the known mode of action, for example with regard to the nervous system, immune system, endocrine glands or even interactions with microorganisms. », notes the report. Amphibians and dolphins will get sick more easily.

Hedge cultivation and wetland restoration

Researchers also highlight the butterfly effect: by suppressing insects or destroying part of the vegetation, pesticides and herbicides reduce food and habitat resources for many animals, including some birds. Insecticides It acts as an aggravating factor in the state of the health of ecosystems, and ranks fourth among the factors affecting nature on a global scale », the report states. In 2019, . was releasedIPBESThe Intergovernmental body on biodiversity », warned of the possible disappearance of a million species, among other things, chemical pollution. Pesticides will be too first mover » Insect numbers are declining, identifies a parliamentary study published last January.

what to do ? The collective assessment of experts does not extend to the topic, as other work is taking place. However she cites some working tools. The first lever to reduce pollution is to reduce the quantities of plant protection products used », reads the report. Unfortunately, the policies implemented so far have proven ineffective in eliminating pesticides. Researchers list promising methods, such as planting hedges and restoring wetlands for creation buffer spaces » Able to absorb and break down some substances.

On the regulatory side, the two research institutes indicate significant progress to be made. Because though European regulations in this field are one of the most stringent in the worldLaure Mami, researcher at Inrae, explains, it has limits ». The authorities responsible for licensing (or not licensing) the products do not analyze the effects of the cocktail – the consequences of co-exposure to many substances – nor the chain effects of the product on the entire ecosystem. Need a more systematic approach »M Grandma. As European authorities prepare to re-license glyphosate, this scientific report should sound like a warning.

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