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Daily News Blog

23
May

Fulfilling Legal Settlement with Limited Scope, EPA Cancels Twelve Neonicotinoid Products

(Beyond Pesticides, May 23, 2019) On Monday in the conclusion of a lawsuit, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final notices of cancellation on the registration of twelve neonicotinoid pesticide products in the Federal Register, each of which contains chlothianidin or thiamathoxam as an active ingredient. The decision to pull these products from the market was required as part of a legal settlement under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in December 2018 of a successful caseEllis v. EPA, brought by beekeeper Steve Ellis and a coalition of other beekeepers and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides. The case establishes a legal precedent in which the court required action to address the bee-toxic effects of pesticides; however, the effect of the settlement and its impact on overall neonicotinoid and other systemic insecticide use is limited.

For all but two of the twelve canceled products, a nearly identical surrogate remains actively registered. Furthermore, the fact remains that there are hundreds more products containing the active ingredients targeted by the lawsuit that have not been removed in any capacity – 106 products containing clothianidin and 95 containing thiamethoxam remain untouched on the market. Breaking down the impacts of the EPA ruling even further, there are several eerily similar classes of insecticides that operate the same way neonicotinoids do that remain untouched by regulation. The sulfoxamine insecticide sufloxaflor, for example, is functionally identical to the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, which negatively impacts foraging and immune responses in bees. Even at low levels, sulfoxaflor impairs reproduction and reduces bumblebee colony size.

In the originating lawsuit, filed in 2013, plaintiffs made a number of claims related to EPA’s failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides, its poor oversight of the bee-killing pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam, and its practice of “conditional registration,” as well as labeling deficiencies. Plaintiffs noted that the subject pesticides “have been shown to adversely impact the survival, growth, and health of honey bees and other pollinators vital to U.S. agriculture” and have “harmful effects on other animals, including threatened and endangered species.”

“The federal pesticide law is a weak statute and offers limited protection for bees, the ecosystem, and public health” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “People are taking matters into their own hands by adopting practices around their homes and community-wide and purchasing products that are protective of bees, the environment and people,” he continued.

In May 2017, a federal judge ruled that EPA violated the Endangered Species Act when it issued 59 neonicotinoid insecticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for pesticide products containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam. U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney rejected the claims of intervenors (pesticide producers) that the plaintiffs had not established causation between the subject pesticides and the harm to plaintiffs. But rather than order EPA to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) — a requirement when a pesticide is registered (so as to reduce risks to endangered species) — the judge directed the parties, including the plaintiffs, defendant EPA, and intervenor Bayer CropScience, to move forward with a settlement conference to resolve the disputes. The result: a compromise solution with, at best, weakly protective impacts. The court ruling denied plaintiffs’ claims under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the nation’s pesticide control law, that EPA had a statutory duty to suspend cited bee-toxic pesticides, as established in an emergency legal petition filed in March 2012. The judge said that the court lacked jurisdiction due to conflicting laws or EPA’s actions were not “approvals” subject to court challenge.

Canceled Product Active Registered Product
Meridian 0.20G Meridian 0.33G & Meridian 25WG
Meridian 0.14G Meridian 0.33G & Meridian 25WG
Activa Complete Corn 500 Activa Complete Corn 250
THX/MXM/FDL/TBZ FS THX/MXM/FDL/TBZ/SDX FS
Adage Delux Adage St
Adage Premier Adage St
Inovate Seed Protectant Inovate Pro Seed Protectant
Inovate Neutral Seed Protectant Inovate Pro Seed Protectant
Aloft GC G Insecticide Aloft GC SC Insecticide
Flower, Rose & Shrub Care III Flower, Rose & Shrub Care II

Systemic insecticide-treated seeds are pervasive and widely used across the agricultural landscape, home gardens, and public spaces. Of the two most widely planted crops in the U.S., between 79 to 100 percent of corn seed and 34 to 44 percent of soybean seed were treated with neonicotinoids in 2011. A conservative estimate of the area planted with neonic-treated corn, soybean, and cotton seed totals just over 100 million acres, or 57 percent of the entire area for these crops.

Pollinators are far from the only victims of ubiquitous systemic insecticide contamination. In a recent avian risk assessment, EPA scientists found that neonicotinoids present in treated seeds exceeds the agency’s level of concern for certain birds by as much as 200-fold. A 2017 study by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan confirmed that tiny amounts of neonicotinoids – the equivalent of just four treated canola seeds, for example – are enough to cause migrating songbirds to lose their sense of direction and become emaciated. Recent research uncovered the endocrine-disrupting health impacts of imidacloprid on white-tailed deer, leaving the disturbing open question: if large mammals are feeling the impacts, are humans as well?

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect pollinators, wildlife, and people, it is left up to the public to establish safe havens by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Get involved at the community level to pass policies that protect imperiled pollinators. Use Beyond Pesticides’ resources and educational materials, including our BEE Protective doorknob hangers to get the word out. See Beyond Pesticides’ series celebrating unsung wild pollinator heroes through the Polli-NATION campaign.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Center for Food Safety

 

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