Pervasive pesticide use around the country threatens essential pollinators and the broader web of life – including humans. PEER highlights key new science and exposes Administration coverups of the dangers.
Increasing evidence shows that the bees, moths, butterflies, and other species responsible for pollinating more than two-thirds of the world’s food crops are dwindling at startling rates. And while habitat loss and climate change are important drivers of these losses, the nationwide use of persistent, highly toxic, poorly-regulated pesticides has rightly attracted the concern of many scientists working in federal agencies like EPA — agencies that, while charged with regulating the pesticide industry and ensuring safety, seem all-too-willing to act in the best interests of those very industries. Not only pollinators are at risk. Aquatic invertebrates, birds, bats, and indeed whole ecosystems – even human health – are under threat.
PEER networks with individual scientists working in the public agencies and land-grant universities and offers them legal and other support so that their research and careers can continue undisturbed. We have a long history of defending and assisting such scientists, including pollinator experts, whether in personnel actions if it comes to that or in more behind-the-scenes ways.
- National Wildlife Refuges: Banning GMOs and Neonicotinoid Pesticides
- Revealing Hidden Science and Harms
Past Litigation and Advocacy
In 2015, following several years of successful litigation led by PEER, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) banned genetically modified (GMO) crops and persistent neonicotinoid insecticides in the extensive agriculture that occurs within the National Wildlife Refuges, which the USFWS manages. “Roundup Ready” GMO crops and long-lasting insecticides are fundamentally contradictory to the purpose of Wildlife Refuges, as they can wipe out native invertebrates and their habitats. However, President Trump’s Department of the Interior reversed the ban in August of 2018, announcing that it will again allow their use within the Refuges. PEER is fighting back.
Current FOIAs and Litigation
PEER is following on its 2018 FOIA request to the USFWS in order to expose the industry pressure that drove this reversal, including the role of former Monsanto executive Aurelia Skipwith, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the USFWS with oversight over the National Wildlife Refuges who played a role in rescinding the ban. We are suing the agency over it hundreds of pages of FOIA redactions. Our aim is obtaining and exposing information on the narrow interests that drove the ban rescission, contradicting the past recommendations of the USFWS’s own scientists. We also are seeking information from the managers of the most sensitive Wildlife Refuges and will advocate to them to not allow these harmful agricultural practices to start up again. More litigation may follow if needed.
The Alarming Deer/neonicotinoids Study
A former PEER client, entomologist and pesticide expert Jonathan Lundgren, is a co-author on a highly–alarming new study, “Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Physiology and Reproductive Characteristics of Captive Female and Fawn White-tailed Deer.” The study found that field-relevant contamination with the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid caused reduced body weight and metabolism in adults and – in fawns – mortality. It adds to the mounting hazards posed by current patterns of neonicotinoid use. Extensive knowledge now exists on how these long-lasting “systemic” insecticides harm birds, bats, pollinators, other beneficial insects, and aquatic invertebrates. PEER is working to get these results better publicized, including reaching out to key decisionmakers in Federal and State wildlife agencies and in Congress.