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Pesticide widely used in US particularly harmful to bees, study finds.

Agriculture in the United States has become 48 times more toxic to insects over the last 25 years, largely due to a controversial, widely used class of pesticides that are particularly harmful to bees, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Neonicotinoid pesticides, also known as neonics, are used on more than 140 different types of crops, from apples to rice. Neonics are most persistent in corn and soybeans as the pesticide is used to coat the seeds of these crops.

Neonics work by attacking the nerve cells of insects, compromising their behavior and often killing them directly. The pesticide was developed in the 1990s as a solution to insects developing immunity to other types of pesticides.

The new study is the first to quantify the effects of neonics in the US over the span of time since the pesticide was introduced to crops. But researchers have been sounding the alarm about neonics for years, particularly because of growing evidence that the pesticide could be a major contributor to declining bee populations.

“We have not learned our lessons. We know neonics are one of the most toxic classes of pesticides to bees ever introduced into agriculture,” said Kendra Klein, an author of the study and a senior scientist at not-for-profit Friends of the Earth. “There’s this fundamental recklessness and foolishness to introducing [neonics] and continuing down this path.”

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