Broadly Supported Petition Urges EPA Reforms for Bee and Bird-Killing Pesticides
Neonicotinoid insecticides targeted for wreaking eco-havoc despite lack of economic benefits
Washington, DC – Today Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the American Bird Conservancy spearheaded a regulatory filing with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of 65 non-profit groups proposing major reforms in the way the agency regulates systemic insecticides with a focus on the neonicotinoids, which have caused excessive honey bee deaths and bird mortalities since their introduction more than 20 years ago. The groups are pushing EPA to discard a 1984 regulatory waiver that allowed companies to register pesticides without first submitting “efficacy” data showing that the product actually provides claimed benefits. Instead of requiring data on the costs versus the benefits of a pesticide application, the Reagan-era EPA simply formally declared: “rather than require efficacy data the Agency presumes that benefits exceed risks”.
The Petition documents how EPA’s shocking 1984 presumption and its subsequent failure to require efficacy data has led to extensive environmental harm, including the overproduction of thousands of tons of surplus neonicotinoid-coated seeds that were never planted and have contaminated the environment. .
“We have overwhelming proof that neonicotinoids are devastating to birds and insects. One seed coated with a neonic can kill a songbird, which is to say nothing of the millions of birds impacted by the loss of beneficial invertebrates from neonic pollution,” said Hardy Kern, Director of Government Relations for American Bird Conservancy’s Pesticides and Birds Campaign. “What we don’t have is the expectation that chemical registrants have to prove their product works as intended.”
Expert study after expert study, including by EPA’s economists, show that in most situations the use of neonicotinoid-coated seeds is unnecessary – and in some contexts using the seeds actually reduces crop yields. Yet, neonicotinoids on seeds are the most widespread application of pesticides in the country, impacting about 100 million acres in a typical year.
“While EPA should hold all pesticides to a higher standard, for the neonics we have voluminous published evidence on their lack of efficacy, their prophylactic overuse, and the environmental harm they are causing.” said Peter Jenkins, PEER senior counsel. “The threat they pose to long-term ecosystem integrity is especially insidious.”
The list of co-petitioners includes: Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Endangered Species Coalition, Farmworker Association of Florida, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pollinator Stewardship Council, and the Sierra Club.