This is part of the book “Stéphane Foucart et les néonicotinoïdes. The World and disinformation 1“, where I present the reasoning developed by the journalist in the corpus. What is said in this chapter is my view on what the journalist writes. All quotes are translated (by me), except the ones marked between [ ] in the french version (french quotes are to numerous to be marked in this one).
This damage is all the more appalling as it would be unnecessary on the one hand because it is not useful for the crops and on the other hand because there are alternatives. Their use would in fact result from the “paradox of the red queen” and from the structural problems of the agricultural model of which the farmers would be captive.
a. Useless beekillers
David Goulson showed the lack of correlation between NNI use and yields in a review published in the “Journal of Applied Ecology, comparing yields (rapeseed and wheat) depending on the amount of NNI used.” (13)
The Center for Food Safety (CFS), an environmental NGO, would have “systematically examined the scientific literature” and in 2014 only found 4 studies showing gains in yields, against 19 studies finding an absent or insignificant gain (Stevens, Sarand et Jenkins, 2014). (20) m(40)
The ban on 3 NNI and fipronil has reportedly resulted in above-average, if not much above, harvests. (20) Bonmatin (Lexmond et al., 2015) observed, through the review of 200 publications, that NNIs “have only marginal or no use”. This would be due to the systemic and preventive dimension of NNIs. The targeted pests would be present on only a small part (4% in the example he takes) of the areas. In addition, their diffusion in the environment would encourage the emergence of resistance. (40)
b. Ecological alternatives
NNIs should be banned all the more as “viable non-chemical alternatives exist”. (23) There would be alternatives “such as crop rotation, the use of biological control (resorting to natural predators of pests, etc.)”. (40) This was notably demonstrated in Italy in a study conducted by Lorenzo Furlan. He created a mutual fund fulfilling the same crop insurance role as NNIs. It brought together farmers representing nearly 50,000 hectares, each contributing 3 to 5 € / hectare, ie 7 to 10 times less than the said pesticides. (37) (40) (46) ANSES itself found in 78% of cases of use of NNI at least one non-chemical alternative solution and in 89% of cases of alternative pesticides. (46) The viability of these alternatives and the usefulness of NNIs would become clear from the fact that organic beets would have been little or little affected by the aphid (and therefore jaundice) infestation of spring 2020. (63)
c. Red queen paradox
The whole agro-industrial model is at stake: the yields of field crops have tended to stagnate since the beginning of the 1990s (and even earlier for rapeseed and sunflower, which have plateaued respectively since the 1980s and 1970s. ). (27) In fact, the innovations would preserve the yields which decrease because of the damage caused by the previous innovations. This is the paradox of the Red Queen:
“In reality, the dominant agricultural model seems subject to the paradox of the Red Queen. In a famous scene from Lewis Caroll’s book Beyond the Looking Glass, the Red Queen explains to Alice that in the world she has landed in, you have to keep accelerating to stay still. Agriculture is embroiled in a similar frenetic race to stand still. As time passes, each new innovation produces ever weaker beneficial effects and ever greater damage, which are in turn corrected by other innovations, also coming with their externalities… As a result, returns only stagnate at the cost of endless chemical and technical escalation.” (27)
d. Trapped farmers
This would be all the more perverse as the farmers would not even have a choice:
“It has become very difficult for them to obtain seeds that are not coated with pesticides – the content of which they do not necessarily know. Today, the cooperatives, to which three quarters of them belong, sell 70% of the seeds presented as real “guarantees all risks” and dictate their way of proceeding. “Farmers depend on cooperatives and cooperatives depend on pesticides,” said the UNAF.” (36)
They would also be influenced by consulting companies, which would be encouraged to recommend the use of pesticides:
“In Italy, the companies that provide technical advice to farmers are also those that sell them pesticides,” replies Lorenzo Furlan. And we constantly tell them that they will lose their harvest if they do not use these products…” The same observation holds true for France: all the parliamentary reports on the subject highlight this institutional conflict of interest which leads to mechanically upwards the use of phytosanitary products.” (37)
“The reason is a structural conflict of interest: technical advice to farmers is provided by those who sell them the pesticide treatments, Mr. Bonmatin summarizes. If this advice were provided by independent agronomists, the situation would be very different.” (40)
Only the agrochemical industry would emerge a winner from this fool’s game…
- Lexmond, Maarten Bijleveld van, Jean-Marc Bonmatin, Dave Goulson, and Dominique A. Noome. “Worldwide Integrated Assessment on Systemic Pesticides.” Environmental Science and Pollution Research 22, no. 1 (January 1, 2015): 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-014-3220-1.
- Stevens, Sarah, and Peter Jenkins. “Heavy Costs: Weighing the Value of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Agriculture.” Center for Food Safety, 2014. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/reports/2999/heavy-costs-weighing-the-value-of-neonicotinoid-insecticides-in-agriculture.