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Daily News Blog

08
Sep

Endangered Species Likely To Be Hard Hit by Neonicotinoid Insecticides, EPA Finds

(Beyond Pesticides, September 8, 2021) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month released a long-overdue biological evaluation of the three most commonly used neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides, finding that the chemicals are likely to adversely affect the lion’s share of endangered species and their habitat. While the public may be most familiar with the damage neonics cause to pollinator populations, EPA’s evaluation highlights the widespread, indiscriminate harm scientists throughout the world have been sounding the alarm about for years. Advocates say the findings make it clear that neonicotinoids must be immediately banned from use.

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), EPA is required to consult with federal wildlife agencies and conduct a biological evaluation of the impacts a pesticide may have on endangered species and their habitats, prior to the agency formally registering the pesticide. This almost never happens. EPA regularly fails to conduct this evaluation, requiring environmental and conservation organizations to sue the agency in order to force compliance with the law.  

EPA has been subject to a number of legal challenges over the last decade for its failure to comply with ESA when it registered neonics pesticides. In 2019, Ellis v Housenger (EPA), a lawsuit filed by beekeeper Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co in Minnesota, alongside environmental organizations Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and others, concluded that EPA violated ESA. The judge in that case ordered the parties involved to negotiate a settlement to resolve the dispute. This resulted in the cancellation of 12 neonicotinoid products, but allowed a broad range of similar products to remain on the market.

Separate lawsuits filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Center for Biological Diversity resulted in settlements that required EPA to fulfill its original legal requirement and publish a biological evaluation on the effects of neonics on endangered species. EPA’s current release is considered a draft, and it has until June 2022 to complete its work. Finalizing the evaluation will initiate a consultation process that could result in restrictions on the chemicals in order to alleviate risks to endangered species or their habitat.

Under EPA’s current draft, each neonic was found to adversely affect over 1,000 endangered species out of 1,821 listed under the law. Specifically, the neonics were found to adversely effect nontarget endangered species: imidacloprid – 1,445  (79%), clothianidin – 1,225 (67%), and thiamethoxam- 1,396 (77%). Harmful effects were not limited to a specific subgroup – dozens of species were affected within all groups, including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, plants, and aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.

These findings are stark in the context of actions by the previous administration to weaken the biological evaluation process. Under new “Revised Methods” the agency released, many of the ways that protected species are commonly hurt or killed by pesticides are ignored, such as down stream impacts, and secondary effects like for instance, when harm to a pollinator population effects the fitness of an endangered plant. It is critical that EPA and wildlife agencies conduct more research on the trophic impacts of pesticides, not less.

Thus, while even these grim determinations are likely significantly underplaying the danger posed by neonics, reports indicate the pesticide industry is concerned with how the Biden administration will ultimately act on these data. In its press release, EPA noted that these reviews came after the agency’s lackluster rubber stamp of the chemical class in early 2020. The agency indicates that, “Additional mitigation measures may be developed through formal consultation on the neonicotinoid pesticides. EPA is interested in finding ways, through discussions with stakeholders, to implement mitigation measures that further protect endangered and threatened species earlier in the ESA consultation process.”

While that does provide a small ray of hope, to date, agency actions under President Biden and Administrator Regan have resulted in the renewal of the highly toxic herbicide paraquat, defending a decision to allow use of once-banned aldicarb, and the re-approval of another bee-killing insecticide sulfoxaflor. The agency recently took overdue action on the insecticide chlorpyrifos, yet significant concerns remain over the precedent established by the way EPA made its decision.

Ultimately, any action taken by the administration to limit one chemical or chemical class without a broad-scale reorganization of how EPA conducts its pesticide reviews is insufficient. Real reform is necessary to stop industry influence over American’s health, environmental safety, and the dwindling species whose protection are critical for our long-term welfare. Help reinforce the message that the Biden administration must have EPA hold pesticide manufacturers accountable for the poisoning and damage they cause.

For more information on the dangers pesticides pose to wildlife and endangered species, see Beyond Pesticides’ Wildlife program page.  

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

Source: EPA, C&EN

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One Response to “Endangered Species Likely To Be Hard Hit by Neonicotinoid Insecticides, EPA Finds”

  1. 1
    'Great White' (Shark: Earth & Beings Rights Person) Says:

    The craziest thing, really is sociopathic in it’s be in-acted, is we do not need these pesticides and they only giving us lesser quality and killing off the species we need to grow food & survive! I use Vermicomposting and have tons of food producing food plants (from fruits-herbs), native plants (from bushes to huge trees) and insect paradise. I also live in a Top 10 Ag. area in the world, when in comes to profits, yet, my property is hard to beat in healthy soil and production.

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