EPA signals moves to ban more “neo-nic” insecticides

Three common neonicotinoid insecticides were ruled “likely to adversely affect” thousands of endangered species and critical habitats, according to draft biological evaluations released by EPA on Thursday, Aug. 26.

These findings could result in additional changes to the labels of the three neonicotinoid insecticides, if EPA decides they are necessary to protect these species and habitats after it consults with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service in the months ahead.

The products in question are imidacloprid (such as in Gaucho, from Bayer), clothianidin (such as in Poncho, from BASF) and thiamethoxam (such as in Cruiser, from Syngenta). These insecticides are also available from other companies.

All three are common ingredients in corn, soybean, wheat or cottonseed treatments, among other agricultural uses. EPA had granted interim registration decisions for all three back in January 2020, but those registrations are not finalized until the agency has wrapped up these biological evaluations and decided if additional safety measures are required for their use. All pesticides must go through these endangered species screenings, due to requirements in
the Endangered Species Act, but EPA has only just begun to execute them. Most recently, the agency released its endangered species assessment for glyphosate, which found that the vast majority of species and habitats considered were at risk from glyphosate use.

The EPA found that all three neonicotinoids were “likely to adversely affect” the majority of the endangered species and critical habitats the agency considered, with imidacloprid putting the most at risk. Plants, insects and fish were among the most numerous species listed as threatened.

Here are the breakdowns:
● Clothianidin: 1,225 endangered species, 67% of those considered and 446 critical habitats, 56% of those considered.
● Imidacloprid: 1,445 endangered species, 79% of those considered and 658 critical habitats, 83% of those considered.
● Thiamethoxam: 1,396 endangered species, 77% of those considered and 644 critical habitats, 81% of those considered.

Please note that these findings don’t guarantee that label or use changes need to be made to protect those species or habitats.

“EPA must make an LAA [likely to adversely affect] finding if it finds any likely adverse effects — regardless of whether the effects may have broader implications for the species’ conservation or recovery,” the agency explained in a Q & A posted on its website. “For example, the likelihood of harm to even one bird of a species that exceeds 40,000 individuals is enough to trigger LAA.
This is true even if the species’ status is improving or near recovery.”

Moving forward, EPA will work with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to decide if additional changes need to be made to these insecticides’ labels or registrations to protect any of the affected species.

“If the Services identify additional mitigation measures as part of formal consultation, they will include them in the biological opinions. Some of those measures may be tailored to the conservation needs of individual species, based on future discussions among EPA, the Services, and pesticide registrants,” the agency wrote in its Q&A.

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