Comment now: E.P.A. considering expanded use of neonic insecticide

Peponapis pruinosa - USGS bee inventory Flickr 960x
Squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa) / Photo: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

Editorial by MATT KELLY

In the middle of December, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is now considering an application from Syngenta to expand the registered use for thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid insecticide. Given Scott Pruitt’s decision in March to reject a ban on chlorpyrifos – a pesticide that the E.P.A.’s own scientists have determined is a significant health risk to humans – it seems likely that the agency under Pruitt’s direction would have no problem approving the expanded use of a pesticide known to be detrimental to bees.

Those of us who are concerned about the continued use of neonicotinoids need to speak up. The public comment period is now open on Syngenta’s application, and comments must be received by January 16, 2018.

According to a summary of the application in the Federal Register, Syngenta is seeking to make thiamethoxam available as a foliar spray for wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, alfalfa, rice and potato crops. This would allow the insecticide to be sprayed on approximately 165 million acres of farmland, according to information included with a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity in response to the announcement.

Neonicotinoids are the most widely used class of insecticides around the globe. While not intended to target bees, these insecticides still have a significant and detrimental impact on both native bees and honey bees through incidental or accidental exposure. Even at sublethal exposure, neonicotinoids can damage a bee’s ability to communicate, smell, navigate, reproduce and simply move its body. The detrimental impact of thiamethoxam and its neonic brethren on bees – both managed and wild – is extensive and well documented in both lab and field settings.

Now, more than ever, public engagement and civic action are needed in our democracy on a wide range of issues. Ensuring the health of diverse bee communities and the long-term sustainability of the ecosystems that sustain us rank at the top of that list. Your voice is important, make it heard. Comments on this proposal can be made at regulations.gov, docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0234.