EPA botches bee-toxic pesticide risk assessments
Friends of the Earth calls for agency to ban neonicotinoid pesticides
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its preliminary pollinator risk assessment for three neonicotinoid insecticides: clothianidin, thiamethoxam and dinotefuran and updated its assessment for the neonicotinoid imidacloprid. A growing body of scientific data implicate these pesticides as key contributors to bee declines and as harmful to other organisms that are essential to food production. The updated imidacloprid risk assessment failed to address non-agricultural uses of these chemicals or evaluate impacts to any species aside from bees or aquatic species. The EPA found some risks for aquatic insects based on evaluation of the same set of scientific evidence, but are not taking strong action as other countries have done.
Other countries have formally recognized the science on neonicotinoids’ harm to pollinators and have passed protective regulations. In November 2016, Health Canada proposed a ban on almost all uses of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid — stating that the pesticides are seeping into Canadian waterways at levels that can harm insects and the ecosystem — and recognizing that the continued high-volume use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas is not sustainable. In 2013, the European Union suspended the use of three neonicotinoids — clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid — on flowering plants attractive to bees based on their threat to pollinators. In the U.S. more than 100 businesses, cities, universities and states have restricted use of these insecticides in lieu of federal action from the EPA.
Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth, issued the following response:
It is long past time for the EPA to protect bees from the pesticides contributing to their decline. Canada’s proposed ban accounted for research that shows neonicotinoids pose significant damage to our soil, water and critical species, yet the EPA has not taken this threat seriously. The EPA has no excuse for dragging its feet and for not tackling this problem as other countries have done. The protection of bees matters for the livelihoods of beekeepers, for food production and for the health of our environment. With beekeepers facing continued unsustainable losses and essential native pollinators facing extinction, the EPA must urgently take decisive action to address both agricultural and non-agricultural uses of neonicotinoids and ban these bee-toxic pesticides.