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What are neonicotinoids and why cotton crops still use them

What are neonicotinoids and why cotton crops still use them

Why eucalyptus trees don’t require insecticides

Before we get into neonicotinoids, let's discuss why eucalyptus trees, and therefore S&G bedding, don't require pesticides or insecticides.

Eucalyptus trees are a group of evergreen flowering trees that are native to Australia (our farms are located in India, Sweden, Canada and South Africa). Aside from being the source of the softest, smoothest sheets on Earth, eucalyptus trees produce compounds called nectarolides that allow the plant to ward off many pests on its own. 

In other words, eucalyptus trees are naturally insect-repellant. This is not only good for you (who wants to sleep on chemicals?), but it's also good for the environment. 

Okay, now let's talk about neonicotinoids, what they are, how they affect honeybees, and which crops and countries still use them (cough, cotton, cough, United States and Asia. Sorry, we inhaled a bunch of neonicotinoids, hence the coughing.) 

What are Neonicotinoids?

Neonicotinoids, or neonics, as the cool kids call them, are a family of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine that kill insects by acting on the nerve synapses and therefore preventing their normal function. 

Neonics are popular. As of 2013, they’ve been used in the U.S. on about 95 percent of corn and canola crops, the majority of cotton, sorghum, and sugar beets, and about half of all soybeans. 

They’re also used on the vast majority of fruit and vegetables, including apples, cherries, peaches, oranges, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and potatoes, cereal grains, rice, nuts, and wine grapes.  

Why are neonicotinoids harmful?

The vast majority of human food depends on pollination from honeybees. Bees allow the production of at least 70 commercial crops in North America, and more than 90 flowering crops, including citrus, peaches, berries, melons, apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, and cucumbers. 

Unfortunately, bees have been suffering devastating losses, otherwise known as colony collapse disorder, for the past 15 years or so. For awhile, this was a mystery, but study after study has shown that this is thanks in no small part to the widespread use of neonics. 

In fact, the latest research shows that these chemicals have reduced sperm production in drones by 81%, resulted in fewer eggs laid by queen bees by 30%, and even caused complete hive collapse.

But, that's not all. Show them what else they've done. 

Neonicotinoids effects on other wildlife

By wiping out insects (even the ones that annoy us), we disrupt the entire food chain: Birds eat insects. Neonics kill insects. Birds go hungry, which means animals that eat birds go see where this is going. 

Neonics also seep into the soil and waterways, affecting marine life. Coral and reef-dwelling species have been observed to be affected by these chemicals. 

As the journal, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, put it: "these systemic insecticides pose a serious risk of harm to a broad range of non-target invertebrate taxa, often below the expected environmental concentrations, that their present use is not a sustainable pest management approach, and compromises the actions of numerous stakeholders in maintaining and supporting biodiversity, and this compromise subsequently negatively affects the ecological functions and services the diverse organisms perform."

Or, in layman's terms: neonics are bad for everyone and everything. 

Cotton and the use of neonicotinoids

Now let's talk about cotton. If you look closely you can see "cotton" hiding in the word neonicotinoid. You can't fool us, cotton. 

Neonicotinoid seed treatments are well suited for cotton, because they offer broad spectrum protection against many sucking insects, such as thrips and aphids, which are common early-season cotton pests. 

Because they’re so effective, neonics are spread on nearly all cotton in the US – about 14 million acres. In total, these insecticides will be used across at least 150 million acres of cropland, an area about the size of Texas.

With everything we know about neonics and everything we've learned over the past 10 years, you'd think they'd be banned everywhere, right? Wrong. The EU banned them in 2013 (on the second attempt), but in the United States and Asia they're still widely used. That means, your cotton sheets, t-shirts, towels, and even underwear were likely treated with this food chain-devastating chemical. 

Activists and some legislators are pushing for a complete ban, but until that time, you can rest easy knowing eucalyptus sheets (comforters, duvet covers, etc.) are not treated with ANY insecticides or pesticides. 

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