A new analysis of honey sampled from diverse areas of the world showed that the products contained traces of toxic pesticides 75 percent of the time. The study, which was published in Science, suggests that the bees that produced the honey could also be contaminated, which would threaten the survival of these small insects.

The detected concentrations of pesticides are below the limit considered safe for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Union (EU). But the findings are bad news for the bees themselves, as well as farmers around the world. These creatures make possible the pollination of over 90 percent of the 107 most important crops on earth. The disappearance of bees due to chronic exposure to these pesticides, called neonicotinoids, would be felt world-wide.

Neonicotinoids were considered a modern chemistry marvel for their ability to discriminate between insects that are good and bad for a plant, in addition to being harmless to mammals. Nevertheless, it’s been confirmed that the presence of neonicotinoids is also one of the variables contributing to the decline of bee populations. As a precautionary measure, the EU has prohibited the chemicals since 2013, but they will reevaluate the measure this year.

Recent Findings Regarding Pesticides

For the recent study, scientists investigated 198 honey samples from all over the world, measuring the concentration of neonicotinoids. Researchers detected that the percentage of pesticide traces in honey was highest in samples from North America (86 percent), Asia (80 percent) and Europe (79 percent). The honey with lowest concentrations of pesticides came from Latin America (57 percent) and Oceania (64 percent). The analysis was published in Science magazine.

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The average amount of pesticides detected in the contaminated samples was 1.8 nanograms (ng) per gram of honey. The most detected neonicotinoid, found in 51 percent of the 198 samples, is called Imidacloprid and is developed by Bayer, but commercialized under different names.

Chris Connolly, neurobiology expert at the University of Dundee, told AFP that these numbers are alarming. “The levels found are averages based on the honey produced over the entire season and are enough to have a negative impact on any pollinator,” he said.

This is not the first time scientists have warned about the link between pesticides and bees. In April 2015, another study published in Nature demonstrated that pollinator insects already prefer nectar contaminated with two of the main modern pesticides over nectar without them.

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An author of the study in Nature, Geraldine Wright of University of Newcastle, explained that food with neonicotinoids is more rewarding for bees. Similar to how nicotine acts over certain receptors of the neurons in the human brain, neonicotinoids also affect these same receptors in bees.

When asked this past June about what the studies revealed about the relation between pesticides and bees, Richard Schmuck, Environmental Security at CropScience, a division at Bayer, told the Spanish newspaper El País that they are “still convinced that neonicotinoids are safe when used and applied in a responsible way.”

This article was originally published by Univision Planeta