On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an analysis of the benefits of neonicotinoid pesticides on soybean seeds. In its report, the federal agency concluded that the neonics currently used (imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) have little to no influence on soybean yields.
“We have made the review of neonicotinoid pesticides a high priority,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in a news release. “In our analysis of the economic benefits of this use we concluded that, on a national scale, U.S. soybean farmers see little or no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments.”
Neonicotinoids are widely used on U.S. crops, but the insecticide has been linked to the deaths of bees and other pollinators in several studies, leading to a partial ban in Europe and a complete ban in all U.S. federal wildlife refuges. The pesticide’s impact on pollinators – and potential role in the nationwide decline in honeybee populations – prompted the EPA’s extensive review of the pesticide.
Today, soybean seeds are sprayed with neonicotinoids to prevent pests from degrading crop yields. But in its report, the EPA concluded the following: Compared to using no pesticides at all, most neonic seed treatments contributed to no increase in soybean yields; alternative organophosphate insecticides are comparable in cost, just as effective, and can be applied as crops grow instead of directly to the seed.
Further, as 350.org notes, neonic seed treatment is only effective at warding off pests in the first few weeks after planting, which is when soybean pests are not typically active.
At its most effective, neonic seed treatment provides up to $6 in yield increases per acre, which translates to a less than 2 percent increase in revenue.
The EPA will publish a notice in the Federal Register inviting public comment on their analysis. In the meantime, those wishing to report domestic bee kills or possible violations of environmental laws can contact the EPA at this link.