WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency proposed today to reapprove neonicotinoid pesticides that are a leading cause of worldwide declines in bees and other pollinators.
Rather than banning the pesticides, the EPA is proposing a number of modest measures to limit their harm, including reductions in amounts applied to crops and restrictions on when they can be applied to blooming crops.
“Scientists and regulators around the world have spoken out on the need to stop neonics’ catastrophic harms to bees, butterflies, birds, aquatic insects and bats,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But Trump’s EPA listens only to the pesticide pushers who’re profiting off disastrous pollinator declines.”
A major scientific review published in 2019 found that a “serious reduction in pesticide usage” is key to preventing the extinction of up to 41% of the world’s insects within the “next few” decades. Thousands of scientific studies implicate neonics as key contributors to declining pollinator populations. The EPA’s own scientists have found that neonics pose far-reaching risks to bees, birds and aquatic invertebrates.
“The science is clear that neonics are simply too dangerous and must be banned if we’re going to save our pollinators,” said Burd. “The EPA’s weak mitigation proposals are a far cry from what’s needed.”
This is not the first time the EPA has refused to take necessary action on neonics. In 2017 the agency reversed course on a common-sense proposed rule to place some restrictions on use of neonics when commercial honeybees were present in a field. Instead the agency announced voluntary guidelines that imposed no mandatory use restrictions.
The EPA’s own assessments have found widespread environmental harm from neonics, indicating a growing divide between the findings of scientists at the agency and its politically appointed decision-makers.
Pollinator and aquatic risk assessments have found widespread harm to invertebrates. The EPA also found that risks posed to certain birds from eating neonic-treated seeds exceeded the agency’s level of concern — the level at which harm is known to occur — by as much as 200-fold. The agency further found that if neonic-treated seeds make up just 1% to 6% of a bird’s diet, that bird would be at serious risk of death.
Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides known to have both acute and chronic effects on honeybees, birds, butterflies and other pollinator species, and they are a major factor in overall pollinator declines. These systemic insecticides cause entire plants, including pollen and fruit, to become toxic to pollinators; they are also slow to break down and therefore build up in the environment.Print