Six French Brittany beaches were closed because of a mass of dangerous killer green algae slime. The bay of Saint-Brieuc was the focus, with bulldozers piling so much green algae into trucks on the beach, that an inland treatment center, where green algae are dried out and disposed of, briefly closed due to an unbearable stench. Local residents complained the smell was so bad it woke them up at night. Several people have died, including 30 wild boars.
Environmentalists say the growth of the French green algae are linked to nitrates in fertilizers, pesticides, and waste from the region’s intensive pig, poultry and dairy farming flowing into the river system and entering the sea. When the algae decompose, pockets of toxic gas get trapped under its crust – potentially fatal to humans if they step on it. It is said to kill you in seconds.
News Forecasters asks, is modern agriculture killing us?
An “insect apocalypse” is underway. A global analysis of 452 species estimated that insect abundance had declined 45 percent over 40 years. In the U.S. the numbers of iconic Monarch butterflies has fallen 80 to 90 percent in the last 20 years. A study published last month reported that 81 species of butterflies in Ohio declined by an average of 33 percent in the previous 20 years. A major study warned that 40 percent of all insect species face extinction due to pesticides.
Plants absorb pesticides and incorporate the toxin into all of their tissues: stems, leaves, pollen, nectar, sap. It also means pesticides are in the plant, from seed to harvest, including their dead leaves. In the U.S., agricultural lands are now 48 times more toxic to honeybees, and likely other insects, than it was 25 years ago, almost entirely due to widespread use of pesticides, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS One.
Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine. Imidacloprid, of the neonicotinoid family, is the most widely used insecticide in the world. In the late 1990s, neonicotinoids came under increasing scrutiny over their environmental impact and were linked in a range of studies to adverse ecological effects, including honey-bee colony collapse disorder (CCD) and loss of birds due to a reduction in insect populations. In 2013, the European Union and a few non-EU countries restricted the use of certain neonicotinoids. Bayer Cropscience, the parent company of Monsanto (acquired in 2018), is the leading manufacture of these products.
Farming is not your father’s mere work from a time past, rather it is now agribusiness and a highly technical enterprise. From the inset chart, we can see two things. First, corn (grain as a group as well) yields have exploded, causing extreme farm productivity. This has made farming more profitable, land prices go up, as well as the debt required to sustain it.
Secondly, it is no wonder that farm productivity has coincided with the increase of pesticide use. The marketing material of pesticide manufactures was accurate. Their use can increase profits. A farmer would be forced into the pesticide use to compete. Land prices have built into their price this assumed productivity. When a farmer would start a farm, the debt required to start (to service the debt) would make pesticide use a requirement to succeed.
News Forecasters can’t confirm the specifics of agribusiness technology, but we imagine the environment is quite complicated – a Rubik’s cube of environmental concerns. A company that is narrowly focused on profits, will view their product too narrowly in terms of the wider implications of the effects on the environment. Bad things could and most likely happen. This causes us to believe the politics will drive down pesticide use over time – despite agribusiness lobbying to stop this. Agribusiness can see the writing on the wall. They are working on less “problematic” solutions, GMOs – a subject for another time.
Aside from those on the beaches of France, what are the effects of killer green slime and a potential decline in pesticide use have on us? News Forecasters believes that farm productivity could stall, making an already difficult financial situation down on the farm even more difficult. Farm foreclosures are already problematic. It also could make food prices rise faster than they normally would, leading to food shortages and even potential food riots. This will then bleed into the geopolitics of food and resource shortage concerns.
More than 50 years ago, Rachel Carson warned in her book “Silent Spring,” that we are waging a war against nature with toxic pesticides, and is inevitably a war against ourselves. Perhaps Rachel Carson is correct.
A video presentation of this subject: