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It’s deadly being green

March 8, 2013
By Amy Mathews Amos (and an anonymous frog) , Blue Ridge Press

Where are celebrities when you need them? Oh sure, Kermit can sing a great song on camera, but what about when the rest of us are dying out here? Then where is he? Chasing some blond pig, no doubt.

It's not like this should come as a big surprise to you all, but frogs like me - along with toads - are disappearing around the world. Your scientists have known it for over 20 years.

Researchers discovered the obvious more than a decade ago - that pesticides poison us. After all, that's what they do, right? They're poison. They give us frogs deformities - like giving boy frogs girl parts.

Article Photos

(Photo — Ren West, via Wikimedia Commons)

Now the latest study, published in January 2013 by four European scientists in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that pesticides kill us, too.

The scientists sprayed European common frogs with six formulations of chemicals used on crops around the world, at the same doses used on fields. They even used the same kind of sprayer that commercial growers use.

And guess what? One pesticide killed all the frogs within one hour. Another killed all the frogs within a week. My fellow amphibians didn't stand a chance.

In fact, all the pesticides tested were deadly: A single spraying by each of the pesticides currently used killed at least 40 percent of all frogs within a week. So guess what happens the second time fields get doused, or the third? That's right: Round two and three of the killing fields. How much of this do you think frogs can take?

Hey, it's not rocket science. We frogs have what they call permeable skin. We breathe through it. Air and water pass through it. So any poison in the air or water goes right through us, too.

It's really been a one-two punch for us lately. In some places, people are catching and eating us. In others they're destroying our wetlands and forests.

And everywhere the climate is changing, making it tricky for sensitive creatures like us. A lot of scientists think that climate change has something to do with the nasty fungal disease wiping out frogs in Costa Rica's Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. Of course, by the time scientists know exactly what's killing us, we all might be gone.

More than 1,800 species of amphibians worldwide (frogs, toads, salamanders and our relatives) are now threatened or endangered - a third of all species, says the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. More than 100 species have vanished in the wild. We know for sure that at least nine are kaput - extinct since 1980. I bet a bunch more are goners, too.

Why should people care? They'll still have their cute movie Muppets after we're gone, right?

Well, they might not be so happy we wild frogs are gone when all the insects we usually eat start invading their space and croplands. It doesn't make much sense to kill us off when we eat pests that bug you. Especially when so much food can be grown organically, without toxic pesticides.

Last year, U.S. and Canadian researchers reviewed dozens of scientific studies comparing organic food crops with conventional food crops grown with artificial pesticides and fertilizers. Verena Seufert and Navin Ramankutty of McGill University and Jonathan Foley of the University of Minnesota reported their findings in the scientific journal Nature.

They found that overall, crops grown by organic methods can produce about three-fourths as much food as conventional methods using pesticides, and some organic crops yield almost as much food as conventional. Not bad when you consider all the frog lives saved. And the soil on organic farms holds water better than conventional farms. That water will come in pretty handy in places like the U.S. Midwest, now that we're seeing all these record droughts brought on by climate change.

You folks also might want to think about whether chemical pesticides that deform and kill tadpoles might also be affecting your little ones, too.

So Kermit, step up to the plate: Tell your fans to eat organic and save the frogs. Before it's too late.

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Amy Mathews Amos is an independent environmental consultant and writer based in Shepherdstown, W. Va.

 
 

 

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