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Industry Report on Neonicotinoid Pesticides Predictably Ignores Key Questions, Lacks Hard Data

December 10th, 2013
Center for Food Safety

Today, Center for Food Safety responded to a misleading and inadequate report on neonicotinoid pesticides released Friday by CropLife, the lobbying arm of the pesticide industry.  The report ignores a number of critical factors that must be considered when evaluating the efficacy of the chemical treatment, including unintended negative effects. Moreover, the report lacked conclusive data supporting many of the positive claims asserted by CropLife.

Among the concerns noted by Center for Food Safety are:

  • The report claims that neonicotinoid seed treatments increase yields, but it does not support these claims with independent, peer-reviewed scientific data showing these results in the field. In fact, a large number of published scientific studies demonstrate that claimed yield benefits are illusory in many contexts. The Province of Ontario's Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Specialist recently estimated that neonicotinoid seed treatment is only needed in 5% to 20% of the corn fields in which treated seeds are planted. 
  • The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency recently came to the decision that uses of neonicotinoid seed treatments on corn and soy are "not sustainable." Soon after, Pioneer announced they would be offering non-treated corn seed to Canadian farmers.
  • The report fails to address the concerns of these seed treatments as systemic. Neonicotinoid residues contaminate soil, water and the environment, and can persist for several years – affecting a wide range of non-target species and ecosystems.
  • The report ignores the serious and underestimated risks to birds from consuming neonicotinoid treated seeds.  A recent report prepared by avian toxicologist Pierre Mineau, PhD. found excessive risk from ingesting treated corn seed, including to threatened and endangered species.
  • The report ignores the known damage seed treatments cause to populations of beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings and soil invertebrates. As documented in a recent report, whole classes of species beneficial for agriculture, soil health and ecosystem sustainability are decimated by the "sterilizing effects" of seed treatments.
  • The report’s discussion of both fungicide and insecticide treatments of seeds ignores the fact that fungicide treatments are scientifically documented to cause harm to honey bee colonies. In addition, the synergistic impacts of fungicides and insecticides together have not been adequately studied, by EPA's own admission.
  • Promises of new, dust-reducing polymer seed treatments noted in the report remain speculative and would take several years to be effective, as EPA has refused to mandate such changes. The harms of current polymer seed treatments are increasingly well documented.

Center for Food Safety and Pollinators:

Center for Food Safety has been heavily involved in the effort to protect pollinators, and our food supply, from harmful chemicals.  In March 2013, CFS filed a lawsuit on behalf of several beekeepers and environmental groups against the EPA, seeking suspension of the two most toxic neonicotinoids and charging that agency’s overall handling of the chemicals has been flawed and unlawful. CFS has also pushed for stronger action from Congress through the introduction of the Saving America's Pollinators Act.


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