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Syngenta Stands Firm On Neonicotinoids

Pesticides: Manufacturer seeks to expand uses of thiamethoxam as pressure against chemical mounts

by Britt E. Erickson
September 12, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 37

Credit: Shutterstock
Pesticides are one of many factors contributing to bee declines.
Credit: Shutterstock
Pesticides are one of many factors contributing to bee declines.

Amid growing concerns and lawsuits linking neonicotinoid pesticides with bee declines, Syngenta is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to increase the allowable levels of the company’s controversial neonicotinoid product thiamethoxam on certain crops.

Syngenta is seeking the change so thiamethoxam can be used as a spray on the foliage of alfalfa, corn, barley, and wheat. Currently, the pesticide is approved for use only as a seed treatment on those crops. In explaining its request, the company says, “Mid- to late-season insect pests are not controlled by seed treatment.”

The environmental group Beyond Pesticides says the move would be a “step backward for pollinator health.” Syngenta’s request “comes at a time when researchers are discovering that even ‘near-infinitesimal’ exposure to this class of pesticides can result in harm to honeybees and other wild pollinators,” the group says.

Syngenta’s action comes just days after Canadian beekeepers filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, claiming thiamethoxam and its breakdown product clothianidin led to more than $400 million in damages from 2006 to 2013. These alleged harms include bee deaths; reproductive, immunological, and behavioral effects in bees resulting in loss of hives; reduced honey yields; lower-quality honey; and contaminated hive equipment. “Chronic effects of the use of the neonicotinoids are felt by Canada’s beekeepers annually,” the suit states.

In the U.S., the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned EPA earlier this summer to conduct an emergency review of the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees. The organization is urging EPA to finish the review within one year. The agency’s current schedule is to complete the safety review of this class of chemicals by 2019.

EPA has rejected calls from advocacy groups to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, saying there is no evidence that bees are being exposed to levels that would cause population declines. Instead, the agency announced in late August that it would require manufacturers to change their product labels to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides when bees are foraging or when plants are flowering. The labels, which could begin appearing as early as next year, must also display an icon showing that the pesticide is harmful to bees.

The European Union last year declared a two-year ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides, including thiamethoxam and clothianidin, because of concerns for bee health. In an ongoing lawsuit there, Syngenta is challenging that ban, saying it was based on a flawed process and an inaccurate assessment by the European Food Safety Authority.

“Growers depend on neonicotinoids and other crop protection products to increase crop productivity,” says Syngenta spokeswoman Ann Bryan. “And the scientific evidence clearly shows that bees and other pollinators can coexist safely with modern agricultural technologies like neonicotinoids when product labels are followed,” she says.

The case against neonicotinoids is complicated because scientists and pollinator experts agree that multiple factors—and not just pesticides—are affecting bee health. Other influences include parasitic mites, diseases, loss of habitat, poor nutrition, weather conditions, and a lack of genetic diversity in bee populations.

EPA is accepting comments on Syngenta’s request to increase the allowable levels for residues of thiamethoxam and clothianidin on various food crops until Oct. 6.



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Jefry (September 12, 2014 7:46 PM)
The seed treatment is bad enough now Syngenta wants farmers to start spraying this poison garbage in open air? What the hell is this China? And the EPA AKA Executive Protection Agency is going to play right along and fulfill this request.
dee (September 14, 2014 11:12 AM)
well spoken.
concerned (September 25, 2014 11:43 AM)
I am in disbelief over what is happening in this country. I wonder what the families of these chemical producing companies eat? Do they not believe that this is hurting their own families. I eat only organic but I am afraid at some point this way of eating will be in danger of becoming trampled on. The government that is supposed to protect us has long forgotten their purpose and their role. What a shamble!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Duff (September 13, 2014 9:32 AM)
Great example of why the EPA needs to be shut down and the people running this organization prosecuted.
AM (September 17, 2014 1:11 AM)
I don't see where the EPA accepted their request. If anyone needs to be shut down, it's corporate giants, they need to be cut off at the knees. I worked for Syngenta- trust me, they're not hurting financially.
Holly (September 13, 2014 11:27 AM)
Everyone should watch Vanishing of the Bees to see what neonicotinoids are doing to the bees.
Carly (September 16, 2014 8:22 PM)
Thank you!! I definitely want to watch that!
Barry (September 13, 2014 4:31 PM)
Please do a full review of the chemistry and you will understand the devastating results that causes havoc with bees. Thank you
John Duczek (September 13, 2014 7:20 PM)
These Big Corporations generate these new products and then; when there is a major problem with their product, they deny they had anything to do with it. Protecting Profits seems to come before anything else. No matter what the consequences. How many times have Corporations bought out products when they have know they will cause major harm but because they have spent so much money developing it that they are caught between a rock and a hard place. The big difference between Corporations using Engineers / Scientists to generate new products and God. God knew what he was doing.... Big Corporations have no idea of the long term ramifications of their products which come forth from their laboratories.
Jonathan (September 14, 2014 5:34 AM)
Very alarming. It's one thing performing the seed treatment within the confines of a factory, but to advocate open-air spraying really boggles the mind. Even if neonics are just a piece in the puzzle of pollinator decline, the fact that infinitesimally small amounts affect bees so strongly should preclude any suggestion of bulk environmental release by spraying crops. Those other factors like mites and genetic diversity will become secondary at most.
R Sweeney (September 14, 2014 2:31 PM)
Perhaps people should wait for the actual results of the EU test ban before joining the two minute hate of Syngenta.
Sheri Scumwanker (September 21, 2014 6:40 PM)
Perhaps we should wait for the actual results of the test before approving spraying of more toxic pesticides on our food crops? The USDA just (this week) approved of new toxic Agent Orange (half 2,4-D and half Glyphosate) to be sprayed on our crops. According to the USDA's own research, this will lead to a breathtaking 2 to 7 fold increase in agricultural use of 2,4-D by 2020, from 26 million to as much as 176 million pounds per year. We can't afford to just allow them to spray the crops before we get the test results.
Chrissie (September 25, 2014 5:37 PM)
I lost my husband to Agent Orange. He died a very horrific, painful, long death. It is a killer (half 2, 4-D and half Glyphosate)of humans, animals, plants, insects, and environments. Why are we spraying this killer? I'm beginning to wonder if this is for population control to kill more Americans? Is this an covert ISIS plan under the guise of a corporation to eliminate the citizens of the United States? A full investigation needs to be invoked. ISIS has oil fields and are utilizing oil for profits to fund their terror networks. Other industries such as chemical and pharma could be doing the same. Just as citizens are under NSA and other US government investigations, these so called national or international corporations need to be investigated as well. They may indeed be the enemies of the state (and citizens) under the guise of corporate and stakeholders profits while killing us, our food supply, environment, and etc. We are at war folks!
Richard Brenner (September 15, 2014 2:07 AM)
Richard; My brother in law lives up in the thumb of Michigan and says that Dow has developed a bio natural treatment that work as good as these deadly chemicles but the fact that Dow doesn't have the money these big companies have we probably never hear about it.
AND we all know every thing follows the money trail. So EPA or what ever-good luck.
I have had the worst honey harvest in fifty-one years and these nut jerks say it is because I don't know how to keep bees.
C. L. Quimby (September 15, 2014 8:04 PM)
This is horrifying and must not be allowed.
claudia buck (September 15, 2014 11:05 PM)
horrifying indeed what can we all do to stop this???? is there a website to go to?
Lenore B(ee) (September 16, 2014 9:56 AM)
Please post the most effective address, both email and street, and proper contact name to write to at EPA.

This is so scary.
AM (September 17, 2014 1:15 AM)
Crop protection giants wouldn't admit the flaws with DDT or atrazine. Meanwhile, the eagle population became near extinct due to soft shelled eggs, but they denied it until they were blue in the face, then the product was outlawed and voila, the eagles are coming back from the brink of disaster that is irreversible. They've proven they're dishonest.
Jason (September 17, 2014 12:48 PM)
The problem comes from putting these man made chemicals into the soil, boost the soils potential organically and you'll have healthy plants able to fight off pests naturally. Oh and you wouldn't let your children run in these corn fields after a crop spray.
Marilyn (September 18, 2014 2:43 PM)
If the people at Syngenta are convinced they're right, they are deluding themselves. They too live on this planet and will suffer from the effects of their bad decisions.
EPA address:
Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Pesticide Programs, Mail Code 7506C
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington DC 20460
D Kucher (September 19, 2014 10:56 AM)
Well said Marilyn.......they will not only suffer with the rest, they will have to bear the guilt of knowing they were implicit. They could take the high road, but alas so many are bought. All involved in this deception will be weighed in the balances and found wanting.
DavidG (September 23, 2014 8:48 AM)
There is a little mistake in the chemical structure of thiamethoxam represented in the article, the nitrogen atom is not connected on the good carbon in the thiazole moiety but it's correct for the clothianidin structure
Lona Pierce (September 24, 2014 7:51 PM)
Now also share a comment with the EPA! Go to and enter the ID number, EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0467-0001, to submit. Syngenta's request will greatly increase residue of thiamethoxam on many crops that pollinators love, such as alfalfa and sunflowers. The Center for Food Safety wrote a very good letter to the EPA on this issue. It's worth reading. Go to their website.
J Billings (September 25, 2014 10:52 AM)
I don't understand how the EPA does not see that they are killing our future ability to produce food. All living things on this planet are connected. When one part is destroyed or poisoned it affects another part. Is the money they are getting to pass these regulations worth the future food source of THEIR children. It is always about the money.
BJ in OK (September 25, 2014 11:08 AM)
"Never act without evaluating the effect of your actions up to seven generations;" that quote came from my great grandfather, a full-blooded Cherokee who thought extensively before he did anything that might affect others. What a mess we have made of this land, this previous Eden, by ignoring the wisdom of elders who knew of what they spoke. I see the clear streams of my own state turned to green slime from crop run-off, the result of chemical fertilizers, and total fish-kills resulting from pesticide run-off on croplands that used to be forest and meadowlands. Now our pollinators are vanishing: I had a frost free spring, but not a single peach in my orchard this year because there were no bees when they bloomed. We poison ourselves, in addition to the wildlife we cohabit with, for the sake of lining somebody's pocket. I tell you now, the rich men in their ivory towers will eventually be the first to starve when our food-sources are depleted or non-existent. Money does not equal life.
CAPERNIUS (September 25, 2014 11:26 AM)
Sadly, all corporate america sees is the bottom line....
they blindly(I'm being polite here) tread into areas that should be left alone...
They are, and always have been, up for sale to anyone who can put more money in their corporate pockets.
They care nothing for this planet, nor the flora & fauna that reside here.

Until someone, or some entity, gets n their face, & FORCES THEM to do what is right, nothing will ever change for the better...
Let's face it, our "holier than thou" Gov't can not be trusted with anything....
I honestly believe, that if we do not do whatever it takes to change the minds of our congress, America as we know it will be(eventually) little more than a 3rd world country.
Voting with my dollar (September 25, 2014 11:42 AM)
Well, here's a news flash for Syngenta and other corporate polluters: you will never be able to kill all the bugs, and it would be a bad thing if you did. Instead of killing everything that doesn't fit your plans, how about learning to outsmart them, like the rest of us have? There are plenty of ways to control the damage with beneficial insects (another news flash for them), companion planting, etc.

In the meantime, we will continue to avoid buying anything your chemicals have touched in any way, and our numbers are growing. Watch that bottom line: it just might not look so good as you continue your polluting ways!
Theresa (September 25, 2014 12:16 PM)
Buy only organic & grow only organic produce. Support organic farmers.
Sylvia (September 25, 2014 12:36 PM)
POISON is POISON!! What else are they going to put on OUR FOOD!!
Mary Elizabeth Moore (September 25, 2014 1:41 PM)
No to Syngenta! They truely don't get out much. They ought to go out in the feilds and look for themselves. NO bees. I plant grasses ,flowers, vegetables every year,and this one was the worst. Very few Honey Bees;mostly Bumble Bees;Almost no Butterflies this year; NO Humming Birds! These companies can not keep feeding all these chemicals out to the farmers or the general Public. Everyone of these chemicals are cancer causing to both we Humans and our 4 legged friends,let alone what they are doing to all our winged friends. EPA NEEDS to STEP UP to the plate and just say NO MORE .
Bonnie (September 25, 2014 3:35 PM)
It is so concerning that with the data that has been gathered that show it's deadly to bees imagine how it is affecting people and our water. As one who is already environmentally sensitive and fight chronic illness due to the pesticides already in the environment-it makes me worry for not only my future but my children's future.
Cindi Rountree (September 25, 2014 7:46 PM)
It is another example of a BIG GOVERNMENT AGENCY controlling our country. It is ridiculous and I think many many people in this country are so FED UP with government thinking they "know best". As I have heard someone say, "what agency has the government run that is efficient? None that I know of."
Betty Folchi (September 25, 2014 7:48 PM)
The constant need to increase the amount of deadly pesticides in our environment, in
order to increase yields is counter productive! Our whole system of balances in nature
is being corrupted by these chemical companies, in the name of increasing production.
The environmental Protection Agency is being manipulated by the powerful companies
whose major concern is more profit and less control. If they are not controlled, we
will lose generations of beneficial pollinators, that will affect our planet forever.
SUDIE SALLEE (September 25, 2014 8:17 PM)
Carol (July 28, 2016 12:39 PM)
The comments section would be more credible, were those commenting required to present actual scientific credentials pertinent to the subject matter. I would suggest this change.

With regard to chemicals, I would remind the natural/organic community that hemlock and pyrethrins, the former a toxic substance and the latter linked to Parkinson's disease, are both natural or naturally derived. Natural is not necessarily better. Another problem with organically-produced food is that it is frequently fertilized with animal waste, a source of E. Coli contamination, as evidenced in the Chipotle restaurant problems starting immediately after their announcement of the decision to use organically-produced ingredients exclusively. Now proponents of organic food may argue that the producers in that and other cases of contamination by E. Coli and other potentially fatal pathogens (such as listeria) did not follow proper procedures, but that is the about the same as the big AgChem companies arguing that farmers may not always follow the application instructions on their product labels.

A bigger problem than chemical contamination that may or may not exist (when glyphosate, i.e., Roundup, one of the biggest targets of self-proclaimed environmental experts, is properly applied, no residue is left in foodstuffs) is the starvation of millions around the world, because current natural/organic farming methods cannot produce all of the food needed. The opposition to anything artificial, rational or not, has snowballed to the extent that more than 100 Nobel Prize winners recently sent what was basically a cease-and-desist letter to Greenpeace regarding its opposition to GMO foods, one of the more promising alternatives to pesticide and herbicide use:

I'm not a chemist or a biologist, but at least I am smart enough to read what qualified scientists are saying about responsible farming. And yes, I've read some articles opposing artificial measures on what looked like scientific websites, but, upon looking further, found that the chief scientists on those sites are not as well qualified (e.g., without PhDs in the topics on which they profess to be experts, a standard that they have never attempted to meet or, in many cases, obviously failed to meet) as those working in academia, industry, or for the federal government. Some, frankly, are professional activists, perhaps in part because their credentials do not qualify them for a job as a real scientist, but also because, aside from whatever passion they have, there is money to be made.

Again, even though I would not be allowed to post, I would suggest a discussion only by those with the credentials to have credible opinions as to the subject matter at hand. There are plenty of other websites welcoming comments from all comers.

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