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Neonicotinoids likely to harm endangered species

US EPA to consult with wildlife agencies and update mitigation measures

by Britt E. Erickson
June 17, 2022


chemical structures of clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam.

Neonicotinoid insecticides are not just harmful to bees and other insects. The three most commonly used neonicotinoids—clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam—are likely to adversely impact nearly three quarters of species listed as endangered in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency concludes in final evaluations released June 16.

Farm groups and environmental organizations are disappointed that the final versions are nearly the same as the drafts the EPA released in August 2021.

The American Soybean Association (ASA) and American Farm Bureau Federation claim that the EPA overestimated the amount of neonicotinoids used by farmers. Although the chemicals can be sprayed on numerous crops and applied to soil, neonicotinoids are primarily used as seed treatments on soybeans and corn, the groups say. The groups raised the same concern last year, but it did not change the EPA’s conclusions.

“Growers have time and again pointed EPA to real-world data to improve their endangered species assessments, which the agency has again chosen to disregard,” Brad Doyle, a soy farmer from Arkansas and ASA president, says in a statement.

Environmental groups are also disappointed that the EPA did not address concerns they raised last year. The EPA made the wrong call by concluding there were no effects for a few species, including aquatic mollusks and the giant garter snake, says Lori Ann Burd, the environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The center and other environmental groups are urging the EPA to ban use of the three neonicotinoids in agriculture and landscaping. The European Union prohibits outdoor use of the chemicals.

“Hundreds of studies have already shown that they are causing population-level declines to many imperiled species, including species like bumblebees, which are essential to agriculture,” Burd says.

The EPA is now consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether any endangered species are in jeopardy from use of the three neonicotinoids and to develop measures to protect the most vulnerable species from exposure. Next year, the agency plans to update mitigation measures proposed in 2020 to reduce neonicotinoid exposures. The EPA expects to finalize those measures in 2024.



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