Tag: imidacloprid

EPA: This pesticide is killing bees. (Pssst, it’s also in some of your weed)

Bees have been dying at a historic rate over the last decade, and the Environmental Protection Agency is now pointing a finger toward a common pesticide found throughout much of traditional agriculture.

Imidacloprid (figshare.com)Imidacloprid (figshare.com)

The chemical, imidacloprid, is also a favorite insecticide among many black market marijuana growers — as well as some legal cultivation professionals who haven’t yet seen the memo that imidacloprid, like every other registered pesticide, is illegal for use on cannabis. In Colorado marijuana, imidacloprid is banned and considered “a threat to public safety,” according to a 2015 executive order from Governor John Hickenlooper.

Gardeners (and gardeners) might not recognize imidacloprid by that name — but the pesticide brand names Merit and Mallet will sound familiar to some. Considered “moderately hazardous” by the World Health Organization and mildly toxic if ingested or inhaled by the National Pesticide Information Center, imidacloprid is one of five neonicotinoids.

As Mother Jones’ food-and-ag writer Tom Philpott wrote:

Marketed by European chemical giants Syngenta and Bayer, neonics are the most widely used insecticides both in the United States and globally. In 2009, the agency commenced a long, slow process of reassessing them—not as a class, but rather one by one (there are five altogether). Meanwhile, tens of millions of acres of farmland are treated with neonics each year, and the health of US honeybee hives continues to be dismal.

The EPA’s long-awaited assessment focused on how one of the most prominent neonics—Bayer’s imidacloprid—affects bees. The report card was so dire that the EPA “could potentially take action” to “restrict or limit the use” of the chemical by the end of this year, an agency spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.

Reviewing dozens of studies from independent and industry-funded researchers, the EPA’s risk-assessment team established that when bees encounter imidacloprid at levels above 25 parts per billion — a common level for neonics in farm fields — they suffer harm. “These effects include decreases in pollinators as well as less honey produced,” the EPA’s press release states.

When The Cannabist and The Denver Post tested marijuana extracts for pesticides in 2015, lab results showed 36 parts per million — or 36,000 parts per billion — of imidacloprid in a Grapefruit Diesel Wax made by Colorado cannabis company Mahatma Concentrates.

After the story ran, Mahatma issued a voluntary recall on the tainted products — and 14 other pesticide-related recalls have since been issued by the city of Denver and various cannabis companies in the four months that followed.

So far, there have been no reports of any human illness traced to chemicals used on marijuana, but worries persist — and two cannabis users have sued one of the state’s largest pot growers for allegedly using a potentially dangerous pesticide on the pot they later purchased.

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Pot pesticides: What exactly are these chemicals, and why are they banned?

The marijuana industry has a pesticide problem.

In the absence of federal guidance on pesticide application — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates the use of pesticides throughout the country, marijuana is still federally illegal, the EPA won’t allow cannabis on any pesticide’s label, yada yada — pot growers have long been using pesticides they shouldn’t have been.

As pesticide regulations are under scrutiny in Colorado, Oregon and elsewhere, some Cannabist readers have asked the question: “What are these pesticide chemicals, anyway, and what makes them so bad?”

So we wanted to list the five most common banned pesticides found in recalled marijuana products in Denver — and what the experts know about them. Mind you, research on pesticides and cannabis is lacking, given that whole federally illegal component of this situation. These pesticide chemicals are allowed on some food items, but given marijuana’s unique pattern of use — where the cured plant materials are exposed to high levels of heat and then inhaled or eaten — there’s nothing in traditional agriculture to compare it to.

You’ll notice that some of these pesticide chemicals are more toxic than others, yet they’re all banned by the Colorado Department of Agriculture for use on cannabis plants. The pesticides local growers can currently use have labels so broadly written that the state determined their use on marijuana is permissible. In October, state regulators proposed new rules that would further restrict which pesticides can be used to grow marijuana to those that are least harmful and already are allowed on crops intended for human consumption and tobacco.

So that’s how Colorado is coming up with its can-use and can’t-use lists. And below are the five most common state-banned pesticides seen in the marijuana recalls issued by Denver’s Department of Environmental Health in 2015 — and what pesticide experts know about them:

Myclobutanil: Fungicide. Active ingredient in Eagle 20 pesticide brand. Considered “slightly hazardous” by the World Health Organization, a “Bad Actor” by the Pesticide Action Network and its own label warns of nervous system problems and toxic fumes.

Imidacloprid: Insecticide. Found in Merit and Mallet pesticide brands. Considered “moderately hazardous” by the WHO, and the National Pesticide Information Center says it’s moderately toxic if ingested or inhaled.

Abamectin and the avermectin chemical family: Insecticide. Found in Avid and Lucid pesticide brands. PAN lists avermectin as a “Bad Actor,” and Avid labels say it’s “harmful if inhaled.”

Etoxazole: Insecticide. Found in TetraSan 5 WDG pesticide brand, which is primarily used on ornamental and landscape plants.

Spiromesifen: Insecticide. Found in Oberon, Judo and Forbid brand pesticides.

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