Ill effects of Pesticides on Food Chain


Getting up at sunrise and hearing to the soothing chirps of birds is indeed a pleasure any ear. Recently many of us would have noticed that chirping of birds in the morning has reduced to a considerable extent. Are birds really disappearing? While reading about this issue, I happened to come across a piece of information which I thought worth sharing with you all.

It is a known fact that most of the farmers use pesticides to keep away pests as they cause major damage to the crops. However, scientists and researchers have concluded that the pesticides not only eliminate the target pests but also impact the other beneficial organisms in the ecosystem. A methodical research conducted in the Netherlands provides concrete evidence supporting this fact.

pesticides ill effects

Pesticides ill effects_sovon klein

A group of scientists at Radboud University, Nijmegen and the Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology and Birdlife Netherlands (SOVON) concluded that a particular class of insecticide called neonicotinoids when sprayed for long term resulted in the decline of around 14 species of birds. They followed meticulous modus operandi, compiling and monitoring data of farmland, bird populations and chemical concentrations of water for years. On comparing these statistics they discovered that bird populations in areas where water contained high concentrations of imidacloprid, a common neonicotinoid insecticide, declined by an average of 3.5% annually.

Interestingly, Neonicotinoid is the same pesticide group which is held responsible for the decline of the honey bee population. This pesticide deprived bees from performing their pivotal role in pollination thus altering the ecological balance and immensely affecting our biodiversity.


Also, a detailed study by the US Environmental Protection Agency unveiled that sparrows struggle with flying after consuming a tiny amount of imidacloprid and become immobile at higher doses.

Since last two decades, Neonicotinoids are the most sought after pesticides, well known for faster results and easy application. Chemically they are similar to nicotine. Neonicotinoids meaning neuro-active insecticides are also termed as a systemic insecticide because they get absorbed into every cell in a plant, thus making all parts of plants toxic to pests. Since the entire plant becomes poisonous, its consumption proves hazardous and poses a threat to all the other beneficial organisms which thrive and survive on it. Insects and plants being a major source of food for birds, birds take in enough doses of these lethal chemicals.

It is worth appreciating that many European countries, learning its physiological and environmental effects have taken a bold move of banning neonicotinoids.

pesticides ill effects

pesticides ill effects

Moreover, another significant study taken up by David Gibbons, a member of the task force and head of RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, the largest nature conservation charity in Europe, presented inevitable evidence that apart from pests and birds, other creatures like earthworms, aquatic invertebrates, lizards, fish, etc. also suffer directly or indirectly due to systemic pesticides.

pesticides ill effects_carson

It was Rachel Carson, a well-known conservationist and American marine biologist, who through her book named ‘Silent Spring’, voiced many environmental concerns and ill effects of pesticides long back in 1962. She vividly elucidated the alarming effects of pesticides and its contribution to the sudden silencing of the song of the birds in her book which prompted to develop a national insecticide policy leading a worldwide ban on DDT.

Today at this phase, neonicotinoids have a lion’s share in global pesticide market putting our biodiversity and ecosystem at risk.

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