COMMENTARY | Vital Safety Net for Pollinators in Peril

Tim Whitehouse

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Vital Safety Net for Pollinators in Peril

This commentary was originally published in the Winter 2024 edition of PEEReview.

In 1984, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a regulatory waiver allowing companies to register pesticides without submitting “efficacy” data substantiating the products’ claimed benefits. That decision has led to the overuse of pesticides, the wholesale loss of bird and bee pollinators, and widespread contamination of the environment.

PEER has teamed up with the American Bird Conservancy to assemble a 65-group coalition petitioning EPA to reverse that decision. To our pleasant surprise, EPA has accepted the petition and is soliciting public comment on it through March 25, 2024.

This change would be a paradigm shift in how EPA evaluates a large percentage of widely used pesticide products. It would require companies to submit data when registering neonicotinoid insecticides and other systemic insecticides showing that the benefits of their products exceed their costs to society and the environment.

By contrast, in Ontario, Canada, when farmers are compelled to prove they need to use neonic-coated seeds, their use has declined significantly with no adverse economic effect.

Over the past 40 years, EPA’s failure to require efficacy data has led to the overproduction of tons of neonicotinoid-coated seeds. One seed coated with a neonic can kill a songbird, while millions of birds suffer from the loss of beneficial insects from neonic pollution. Neonic-coated seeds are by far our largest single insecticide application, covering more than 100 million acres.



Tim Whitehouse, Executive Director of PEER

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