EPA to Review the Bee Killer Imidacloprid
Having received more than 12,000 comments from concerned citizens, the Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday it will begin reviewing the pesticide responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder of bees.
As one of the first organizations in the U.S. to begin tracking this story, SafeLawns.org has long concluded that a synthetic nicotine known as imidacloprid — used to kill grubs on lawns — is responsible for the widespread bee epidemic that has claimed more than a third of the nation’s beehives since 2006. France, Germany, Italy and several other nations have already banned the chemical, often marketed as “Merit,” that has been licensed for use in the U.S. since the 1990s, but came into widespread use in 2005 after the EPA banned diazinon.
Among the organizations submitting official comments to the EPA, Beyond Pesticides, the National Resources Defense Council, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board (NHBAB) and Sierra Club, among others, provided the EPA scientific studies detailing the toxicity of imidacloprid to honeybees. Commenters also stated that in regard to imidacloprid, there are too many data gaps,its review process needs to be accelerated, and that cancellation or suspension of all neonicotinic pesticides is warranted given the potential economic harm to the commercial honey bee industry.
Even as the EPA’s review is a good step, the agency’s letter to the Sierra Club late in 2008 indicated a deep reluctance to ban imidacloprid or any other pesticide currently on the market.
“In order to suspend the registration of a pesticide, EPA must find that an ‘imminent hazard’ exists. The federal courts have ruled that to make this finding, EPA must conclude, among other things, that there is a substantial likelihood that imminent, serious harm will be experienced from use of the pesticide. While the information before EPA, including the information you have provided to us, clearly indicates that further study regarding the possible connection between these pesticides and serious harm to bees is warranted, your request for suspension does not demonstrate a causal link sufficient to justify the suspension of these pesticides under the EPA standard.”
While most people assume EPA approval of a product means the agency has concluded the product is safe, quite often the opposite is true. The EPA’s approval process is conducted on a risk-benefit basis, where the risks to one portion of society (or the planet) are weighed against the benefits to another sector (the manufacturer, farmer, homeowner with grubs etc.) Since imidacloprid is not believed to cause cancer in humans, the EPA is automatically pre-disposed to approve the product — even though the EPA readily admits the product is highly toxic to bees.
Even at incredibly small doses, imidacloprid has been linked to major effects in honeybees, which include disruptions in mobility, navigation, and feeding behavior. In a classic colony collapse involving imidacloprid, the bees can’t find their way back to the hive and eventually fly away and perish. Honeybees are essential pollinators of crops that constitute more than one third of the U.S. food supply or $15 billion worth of food.
Imidacloprid, it should be noted, does have some health effects for humans. Associated with fatigue, twitching, excess salivation, convulsions, and muscle weakness,the chemical also has known reproductive and mutagenic effects, as well as elevated blood cholesterol levels and stress to the liver in dogs.
You have probably seen the ads for grub control product, or you will soon this summer, in which the company touts “one application lasting 12 months.” By the manufactuer’s own admission, imidacloprid persistently lingers in groundwater and soil.
Is using this product worth the risk? Absolutely not.
Beyond Pesticides Urge Everyone to Take Action: Tell EPA that imidacloprid poses unreasonable threats to honeybees and other beneficial insects, and contaminates water
supplies and soil. You can ad your comments to the docket at www.regulation.gov using docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0844.
ONE MORE NOTE: The Bayer Corporation and other manufacturers of imidacloprid constantly try to divert the focus of the Colony Collapse Disorder studies by claiming that mites and other environmental factors are instead responsible for the bee deaths. Increased predation by mites and higher incidence of disease are symptoms of hives weakened by pesticides, but are not the core reason for the CCD.