WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2015 – The comment period for the Environmental Protection Agency’s assessment on neonicotinoid pesticide use in soybeans closes this Friday. The agency published its conclusions in October, finding extremely limited benefits of using the pesticide, which is most often applied as a seed treatment.
The comment period on EPA’s assessment, “Benefits of Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments to Soybean Production,” originally closed on Dec. 22, but EPA re-opened the comment period and extended it until Jan. 23. As of Tuesday, more than 400 comments had been filed.
EPA’s final analysis will be part of the science the agency will use to assess the risks and benefits under registration review for the neonicotinoid pesticides. Registration review --- the periodic re-evaluation of pesticides to determine if they continue to meet the safety standard --- can result in EPA discontinuing certain uses, placing limits on the pesticide registration, and requiring other label changes.
Bayer CropScience laid out its opposition to EPA’s earlier conclusions in a paper the company published last week that summarized conflicting evaluations of neonicotinoids, or neonics for short. “EPA’s assessment used a limited data set and thus reached conclusions that undervalue the benefits that modern seed treatments provide to soybean growers and the economy overall,” according to Bayer’s assessment.
The EPA report was published after several environmental groups and some members of Congress petitioned the agency to suspend the use of neonics, citing pollinator health and environmental concerns. But members of the agricultural industry say without neonics, farmers and horticulturalists would have to turn to older, more toxic pesticides.
In October, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and Valent U.S.A. Corp. formed the Growing Matters coalition and commissioned a study from AgInfomatics to evaluate the economic and societal benefits of neonicotinoids, the world’s biggest selling insecticide class. That study concluded that without neonics, growers of major commodity crops – corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans and wheat – would incur cost increases of $848 million per year. It also put the estimated annual value of neonics to North American corn, soybean and canola crops at $1.4 billion.
Based on this report, and a meta-analysis of EPA’s database from Mississippi State University, Bayer said the data shows there is a 2.6 bushel per acre increase in fields that use treated seed. The company also said that the EPA’s results are not scientific, adding that the agency studied individual field trials instead of yields as a whole.
“While EPA only tested in 13 states (of which only six were from top 10 soybean states), AgInfomatics tested in 23 (with 9 being among top 10 soybean producing states),” the Bayer report stated.
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