Since January, Brazil has approved the use of 300 new pesticides on its crops

By Claudia Harmata
August 22, 2019 01:20 PM

In just three months, more than 500 million bees were found dead by beekeepers in four Brazilian states — 400 million in Rio Grande do Sul, 7 million in São Paulo, 50 million in Santa Catarina and 45 million in Mato Grosso do Sul.

Aldo Machado, beekeeper and vice president of Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul beekeeping association, told Bloomberg that within 48 hours, tens of thousands of honey bees in his colony died after falling sick.

“As soon as the healthy bees began clearing the dying bees out of the hives, they became contaminated,” Machado said. “They started dying en masse.”

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The mass deaths occurred between December 2018 and March 2019, and researchers are blaming pesticides — citing Brazil’s ever-rising, excessive use of the harsh and often deadly chemicals.

Since January, Brazil has approved almost 300 new pesticides for use on crops, SciDev.Net reported. According to Greenpeace’s Unearthed investigation, the total has reached over 1,200 in the past three years. Many of these pesticides are banned in other countries and are considered “highly hazardous.”

Researchers also discovered pesticide traces in the dead bees. In most, they’ve found remnants of fipronil, an insecticide commonly used for veterinary use on dogs and cats to control fleas and ticks. According to Bloomberg, it is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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The mass death of bees has many people worried about what this could mean for food supply, as nearly 75 percent of the world’s food crops rely on pollination, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported, and bees are one of the largest groups of pollinators.

The link to pesticides also has people worried about food safety, and the risk of pesticide residue on the food consumers purchase.

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“The death of all these bees is a sign that we’re being poisoned,” Carlos Alberto Bastos, president of the Apiculturist Association of Brazil’s Federal District, told Bloomberg.

The outlet reported the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency found that nearly 20 percent of samples had pesticide residues higher than permitted levels. Some were even unauthorized pesticides.

The fear has encouraged many Brazilians to turn to organic products, even though the country is in a recession.