EPA Says Unlikely to Approve New Outdoor Neonicotinoid Uses

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it has sent letters to registrants of neonicotinoid pesticides with outdoor uses informing them that EPA will “likely not be in a position to approve most applications for new uses of these chemicals until new bee data have been submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete.”

The report comes just weeks after a three-year study was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE that cleared neonicotinoids as the sole cause of bee deaths. The study, which was funded by the University of Maryland, federal agencies and a nonprofit set up to promote health by the American Beekeeping Federation, concluded that the most likely encountered high range of field doses of imidacloprid relevant for seed-treated crops (5 μg/kg) “had negligible effects on colony health and are unlikely a sole cause of colony declines.”


In addition, USDA also announced in March that honey production continues to improve, rising 19% to 178 million pounds in 2014. The total number of hives also rose by 100,000 or 4%, on top of increases in the prior two years. In fact, the total number of beehives today is higher than it was in 1995, when neonicotinoids had just come on the market.

EPA says the letters to registrants reiterate that it has required new bee safety studies for its ongoing registration review process for the neonicotinoid pesticides, and that the Agency must complete its new pollinator risk assessments, which are based, in part, on the new data, before it will likely be able to make  regulatory decisions on imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran that would expand the current uses of these pesticides. Affected neonicotinoid actions include:

  • New Uses (including crop group expansion requests)
  • Addition of New Use Patterns, such as aerial application
  • Experimental Use Permits
  • New Special Local Needs Registrations

This is an interim position, says EPA. “However, if a significant new pest issue should arise that may be uniquely addressed by one of these chemicals, EPA is prepared to consider whether an emergency use under FIFRA section 18 might be appropriate.”

“Due to the localized nature of many emergency pest management programs, it may be possible to develop mitigation or adjust the use pattern in a manner that would minimize exposure to bees. In the event that an emergency use is requested, the Agency plans to assess such requests by relying on available information and risk mitigation strategies.”

More information on EPA’s efforts to protect pollinators: http://www2.epa.gov/pollinator-protection