Inhofe urges EPA to be 'mindful of science' in review of neonicotinoid insecticides

Sen. James Inhofe urged the EPA to “establish a clear casual link” between the practical and realistic use of neonicotinoids and decrease in bee population. | File photo

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for one thing as it conducts risk assessments of neonicotinoid insecticides: to “proceed with the utmost caution.” 

The chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee wrote a letter to Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention division, expressing “interest and concern” over the risk assessments.

“Given the uncertainty regarding the cause of [colony collapse disaster] CCD and subsequent low bee populations and the influence of these risk assessments on potential regulatory actions by EPA, I ask that you proceed with the utmost caution and continuously evaluate the underlying assumptions of your approach,” Inhofe wrote.

After conducting a preliminary pollinator risk assessment on the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid this year, the EPA announced the insecticide posed a threat to some pollinators when it exceeded a threshold of 25 parts per billion (ppb), which would cause a decrease in pollinators and honey produced.

“The risk assessment notes that the 25 ppb has implications for use of imidacloprid on certain crops, but not others," Inhofe wrote. "However, the review of the open literature on the topic, as well as work conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture, shows there is generally a consensus that multiple factors are related to honey bee losses and no single factor, such as insecticides, have been identified as a cause."

In 2013, the European Union banned the use of neonicotinoids after some studies showed they were harmful to bees. But two years later, the ban was temporarily lifted for 120 days and used on 5 percent of England’s oilseed rape crops, which had been damaged significantly by pests.

Inhofe urged the EPA to “establish a clear casual link” between the practical and realistic use of neonicotinoids and decrease in bee population to avoid making the same mistakes the E.U. made, and added that the findings in the EPA’s preliminary assessment are already causing “misleading and sensationalist headlines from the media” and stirring up environmental activists groups to call for a ban of neonicotinoids.

“For these reasons, I ask that you are mindful of the science related to the real world effects of neonicotinoids on pollinators, and that a robust analysis of the benefits of neonicotinoids is considered,” Inhofe wrote.

Preliminary pollinator risk assessments for three other neonicotinoids -- clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, are scheduled to be released for public comment in December 2016.

Organizations in this story

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20460

United States Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave SW Washington, DC 20250

European Union Brussels, Belgium Brussels, Brussels

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