WASHINGTON, April 3, 2015 – EPA says it is unlikely to approve new uses for neonicotinoid pesticides until it completes assessments of the products’ effects on honey bees and other pollinators. In a letter to registrants of the pesticides, the agency said it is also awaiting the submission of new bee data.
Until the assessments are completed, EPA said it will unlikely to be able to make regulatory decisions that would expand the use of the following pesticides: imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran. Affected regulatory actions include: new uses (including crop group expansion requests); addition of new use patterns, such as aerial application; experimental use permits; and new Special Local Needs registrations.
The agency noted that this is an interim position. It also said that if a “significant new pest issue should arise that may be uniquely addressed by one of these chemicals,” EPA is prepared to consider whether an emergency use might be appropriate.
A number of environmental groups, including the Center for Food Safety, the Pesticide Action Network, and the Center for Biological Diversity, said the EPA should have taken stronger action.
“While supportive of the partial halt on new registrations, farm, beekeeper and environmental groups were disappointed that the action ignored the huge numbers of other bee-harming pesticides already on the market,” the groups said in a statement. They said they suspect EPA’s announcement will foreshadow broader recommendations that a White House Pollinator Health Task Force is expected to announce any day now.
“We need EPA to protect bees and other pollinators from the neonicotinoids and other bee-harming insecticides that are already covering the corn and soybean acres in our area, not just keep new products off the market," said Joanna Voigt, program and communications coordinator at Kansas Rural Center. "Here at the Kansas Rural Center we work with farmers who rely on pollinators to cultivate crops like squash, blueberries, apples, cucumbers, peppers, sunflowers and more. These farmers deserve more from EPA.”
Studies have implicated increased pesticides use among several factors that may be causing declines in the populations of honeybees and other pollinators. Other factors include the loss of areas that provide forage and nutrition for the insects as well the damaging effects of the varroa mite. Environmental groups have asked EPA to rein in agricultural chemical companies on the production and use of neonicotinoids, which are often applied as a seed treatment. A study by AgInfomatics commissioned by Syngenta, Bayer and Valent argues that if neonicotinoids are banned, growers will turn to older, more toxic chemicals that must be applied more heavily.
Earlier this week, a group of 12 senators, mostly Republicans, sent a letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy asking her to explain the steps the agency is taking to protect pollinator health, and to consult producers along the way.
“We have concerns about reports that the agency may be planning to regulate some pesticides, particularly neonicotinoid products, without sufficient understanding of all the environmental stressors facing pollinators,” the letter states.
The lawmakers asked McCarthy to ensure her agency “is investigating the entire range of possible factors that impact pollinator health, and will follow all administrative requirements before completing any potential rulemakings.
The letter was signed by Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; John Boozman, R-Ark.; David Perdue, R-Ga.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; James M. Inhofe, R-Okla.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; and Richard Burr, R-N.C.
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