War on Nature: 97% of Endangered Species Threatened by Pesticides
February 4, 2017
Center for Biological Diversity
The Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged for the first time that three of the nation's most-used neonicotinoid pesticides pose significant risks to commercial honeybees. But in a second decision -- which represents capitulation to the pesticide industry -- the EPA refused to restrict the use of any leading bee-killing pesticides. A nationwide EPA analysis has found that 97% of the 1,800 animals and plants on the Endangered Species list are likely to be harmed by two commonly used pesticides.
97% Species at risk from common pesticides
97% of Endangered Species
Threatened by Two Common Pesticides
Center for Biological Diversity
(January 19, 2017) -- The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its first rigorous nationwide analysis Wednesday of the effects of pesticides on endangered species, finding that 97 percent of the more than 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely to be harmed by malathion and chlorpyrifos, two commonly used pesticides.
Another 78 percent are likely to be hurt by the pesticide diazinon. The results released Wednesday are the final biological evaluations the EPA completed as part of its examination of the impacts of these pesticides on endangered species.
"We're now getting a much more complete picture of the risks that pesticides pose to wildlife at the brink of extinction, including birds, frogs, fish and plants," said Nathan Donley, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The next step will hopefully be some commonsense measures to help protect them along with our water supplies and public health."
The three pesticides are all organophosphates, a dangerous old class of insecticides found in 87 percent of human umbilical-cord samples and widely used on crops such as corn, watermelon and wheat. Chlorpyrifos is currently under consideration to be banned for use on food crops in the US The World Health Organization last year announced that malathion and diazinon are probable carcinogens.
"When it comes to pesticides, it's always best to look before you leap, to understand the risks to people and wildlife before they're put into use," said Donley. "The EPA is providing a reasonable assessment of those risks, many of which can be avoided by reducing our reliance on the most toxic, dangerous old pesticides in areas with sensitive wildlife."
Following these final evaluations from the EPA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service will issue biological opinions to identify mitigation measures and changes to pesticide use to help ensure that these pesticides will no longer potentially harm any endangered species in the US when used on agricultural crops.
As part of a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, these biological opinions are on deadline to be completed by December 2017.
'It's Outrageous': EPA Acknowledges Proven Dangers
Of Bee-Killing Pesticides But Refuses to Restrict Them
Center for Biological Diversity
(January 13, 2017) – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that three of the nation's most-used neonicotinoid pesticides pose significant risks to commercial honeybees.
But in a second decision, which represents a deep bow to the pesticide industry, the agency refused to restrict the use of any leading bee-killing pesticides despite broad evidence of their well-established role in alarming declines of pollinators.
The EPA analysis indicates that honey bees can be harmed by the widely-used pesticides clothianidin, thiamethoxam and dinetofuran. The agency also released an updated assessment for a fourth leading neonicotinoid -- imidacloprid -- showing that in addition to harms to pollinators identified last year, the pesticide can also harm aquatic insects.
Yet on the same day the EPA revealed the dangers these pesticides pose to pollinators, it reversed course and backed away from a proposed rule to place limited restrictions on use of the bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides when commercial honey bees are present in a field. Instead, the agency announced voluntary guidelines that impose no mandatory use restrictions.
"It's outrageous that on the same day the EPA acknowledged these dangerous pesticides are killing bees it also reversed course on mandating restrictions on their use," said Lori Ann Burd, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Environmental Health program. "This is like a doctor diagnosing your illness but then deciding to withhold the medicine you need to cure it."
Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides known to have both acute and chronic effects on honey bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinator species, and they are a major factor in overall pollinator declines. These systemic insecticides cause entire plants, including their pollen and nectar, to become toxic to pollinators.
These chemicals are also slow to break down and they build up in soil, where they pose an especially grave threat to thousands of species of ground-nesting native bees.
In November, the largest and most comprehensive ever global assessment of pollinators found that 40 percent of pollinating insects are threatened with extinction, naming neonicotinoids as a significant driver of wild pollinator declines.
"The new policy does virtually nothing to protect America's thousands of declining native bee species or to curb the escalating use of these harmful neonicotinoid pesticides across hundreds of millions of acres in the United States," said Burd.
"It's shocking that the EPA's response to the crisis of declining pollinators and the abundant science linking that decline to neonicotinoid insecticides is to meekly offer a policy encouraging industry to consider restricting pesticide use in limited situations where plants are blooming while commercial honey bees have been brought in to work the fields.
"This is a rejection of science that should be deeply troubling to all Americans as we move into a Trump administration."
Neonicotinoids have already been banned by the European Union and in 2016 they were banned on all US national wildlife refuges due to their harmful impacts on wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Canada has also proposed a ban on a neonicotinoid because of its unacceptable threats.
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