Pressure Mounts on EPA to Curb Bee-Killing Pesticides

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Thursday, May 11, 2023
Peter T. Jenkins, (202) 2654189,


Pressure Mounts on EPA to Curb Bee-Killing Pesticides

New Reports and Findings Strip Away Agency’s Leeway for Further Evasion

Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is facing a fast-rising tide of State, NGO, and scientific demands to rein in the powerful neonicotinoid insecticides known as the “bee killing pesticides.” These new developments are removing the basis for further EPA delays in deciding whether the nation’s most widely used insecticides should be significantly restricted, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Newly released documents show that EPA received a detailed “issue paper” last August from the nationwide coalition of state agricultural and environmental agencies that handle pesticide infractions on the ground. Known as the State FIFRA Research and Evaluation Group (SFIREG), its issue paper urges EPA “to work quickly to amend 40 C.F.R. § 152.25(a) [its exemption regulation] which currently excludes seeds for planting coated with systemic pesticides” and “to resolve this issue and provide for immediate action.”

Documents obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act indicate EPA said it would respond to SFIREG’s urgent requests promptly, but it has not done so some nine months later.

This revelation follows EPA’s release last week of detailed Endangered Species Act (ESA) assessments it has been drafting since 2019. The agency’s own analysis shows the three main neonicotinoids (clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid) each will drive more than 200 ESA-listed species of plants and animals across all major taxonomic groups into jeopardy of extinction if users continue to apply them nationwide.

At the same time, EPA has yet to acknowledge receipt of a Citizen Petition filed by PEER on behalf of 65 NGOs ten weeks ago seeking reversal of a 1984 Reagan-era regulation that waived pre-existing requirements for pesticide manufacturers to submit proof of efficacy of their products before EPA registers them. That 2023 Petition points to the pesticide-coated seeds as the “poster child” for the harm caused by the agency’s past waiver decision.

“EPA can no longer credibly ignore the accumulating evidence of harm to pollinators, endangered birds, amphibians, and other wildlife, as well as to beekeepers, caused by its own inaction,” said PEER Senior Counsel Peter Jenkins, who was also the author of the 2017 Citizen Petition by the Center for Food Safety (CFS), which EPA denied in 2022, that sought basically the same regulatory changes now urged by SFIREG. “Its refusal to respond is agonizing because the 2017 CFS Petition laid out a solution, which was reinforced last year by the State enforcement officials. At this rate, by the time it takes action the crisis for honeybees and wildlife that EPA itself created will have gone away because there will be none left.”

Neonicotinoids constitute by far the most extensive use of insecticides in the nation, impacting more than 100 million acres annually. The pesticidal seeds are banned in the European Union because of their harms. Yet, EPA actually exempts their use from pesticide regulation. This exemption prevents the State SFIREG agencies charged with protecting the public and the environment from pesticide contamination from legally enforcing restrictions on the seeds, no matter how essential.


Read SFIREG Aug. 2022 cover letter on neonicotinoid-coated seeds

Peruse the full SFIREG Issue Paper

View FOIA documents indicating EPA would respond to SFIREG but fact of no response

See EPA’s recent Endangered Species Act analyses for the 3 main neonicotinoids

Look at Feb. 2023 Petition to reverse EPA’s “efficacy” waiver for neonicotinoid-coated seed

Revisit 2017 CFS Petition on neonicotinoid-coated seeds

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