Penn State study finds increase in neonicotinoids use unprecedented

The use of neonicotinoid pesticides have increased at unprecedented levels, fueled by their application on corn, according to a study recently released by researchers at Penn State University.

John Tooker, associate professor of entomology, said the biggest surprise in the results of the research was that pest infestations were not rising at comparative levels with the increased use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

The study looked at usage from 2004 to 2011.

“Neonicotinoid pesticides weren’t really used on corn before 2003. As of 2011, about 95 percent of the nation’s corn has been treated.”

Tooker oversaw the research, which was conducted by Margaret Douglas, an entomology graduate student. Douglas was unavailable for comment.

While the study did not address the reasons behind the uptick in usage, Tooker said the conclusion the research draws is growers are using the pesticides as insurance against the risk of insect attacks rather than in response to a documented pest threat.

“It’s not like we’re being invaded by swarms of locusts,” Tooker said.

The study has not been submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for review, but Tooker said it is aware of its existence.

Earlier this month the EPA said it would not accept any more applications for neonicotinoid pesticide use due to a perceived risk to pollinators until studies and additional data can be analyzed.

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