Systemic Pesticides: Chemicals You Can’t Wash Off

Washing or peeling fruits and vegetables won’t protect you from systemic pesticides spread throughout the plant's tissues.

| October/November 2010

In conventional food production systems, not all pesticides remain on a plant’s exterior. Systemic pesticides are chemicals that are actually absorbed by a plant when applied to seeds, soil, or leaves. The chemicals then circulate through the plant’s tissues, killing the insects that feed on them. Use of these pesticides on food crops began in 1998, and has steadily increased during the past 10 years. Unlike with traditional insecticides, you can’t wash or peel off systemic pesticide residues.

The four main systemics used on food crops (listed below) are members of the nitroguanidine/neonicotinoid group of chemicals, which has been implicated in the mysterious colony collapse disorder that has killed millions of bees. (See our article Colony Collapse: Are Potent Pesticides Killing Honeybees?)

Imidacloprid can be applied to many vegetables (including tomatoes and leafy greens) right up to the day they’re harvested.

Thiamethoxam was first approved as a seed treatment for corn in 2002, and thiamethoxam products that are applied to the soil have since been approved for use on most vegetable and fruit crops. 

Clothianidin is used as a seed treatment on canola, cereals, corn and sugar beets, and as a soil treatment for potatoes.

Dinotefuran can be applied to soil or sprayed on leafy greens, potatoes, and cucumber family crops.

8/14/2017 6:33:38 PM

It's amazing that the media does not cover this issue or perhaps does not know about it. 20 years ago I heard about third world countries growing fruit were pouring pesticides at the root of the trees and it was absorbed into the fruit. But, I have heard nothing since. Except of course, that all the bees were dying because of 'unknown' reasons.

Mary Rowlands
10/7/2013 9:05:30 PM

here's a thought. do you suppose organic farmers escape collateral damage when they aerial spray for mosquitos, etc?

Irene Tukapua
4/24/2012 4:28:17 PM

What a pack of F%#@@$%^&((()*&^$z who are making important decisions for the whole entire human race, what is the agenda besides utter complete greed by these drug companies and bought and paid for cronies who pass the legislation to allow such a travesty to exist......just goes back to the old saying that money is the root of all evil.........

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