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  • Writer's picturePollinator Stewardship Council

American Bird Conservancy Publishes Ten-Year Follow-Up Report on Neonics

In 2013, American Bird Conservancy published an important work titled  “The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds”  which identified the risks that neonicotinoid insecticides placed on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and the ripple effects on the birds and other wildlife species in those ecosystems.  One of the most egregious findings showed that a single neonic-coated seed is enough to kill a songbird. Unfortunately, in the ten years since that publication, very little has changed at the regulatory level to protect birds and other wildlife from this dangerous class of systemic chemicals. Unfortunately, the follow-up report published last week finds very little change in the past decade. 

From Section 2.4 of the report:  

North American regulators, namely EPA, the PMRA and California DPR have attempted to assess the risk of the three high-use neonics to pollinators. Despite considerable time and resources devoted to this assessment, the end result is scientifically highly questionable... One key finding is that the risk of seed treatments – typically a large proportion of total use – for pollinators at large has been completely mischaracterized by the regulators through a series of fundamental flaws in the official assessment.

The three North American regulatory bodies - the EPA, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, and Canadian Pest Management PMRA  teamed up to produce a coordinated pollinator assessment....As reviewed in detail, the regulatory assessments; (1) underestimated risks to wild bee species and other pollinators by relying on honey bee colony survival as a proxy for pollinator health; (2) underestimated nectar and pollen contamination levels following the use of neonic-treated seeds by assuming that the majority of crop species would have residue values at the low end of the measured spectrum; (3) ignored risks of dust from neonic treated seeds at planting, despite ample evidence that this route of exposure is highly relevant; (4) ignored exposures of bees and other pollinators to neoniccontaminated water – including, guttation fluid and puddles in or near fields sown with neonic-treated seeds – despite existing field estimates that show that these routes of exposure can completely dwarf the routes that were formally assessed; and (5) ignored risks from neonic uses on crops deemed unattractive to honey bees, despite evidence that neonic residues migrate into adjoining areas, including adjacent wildflowers that can exceed levels in the field proper (see above); (6) excluded available peer-reviewed literature from quantitative risk assessment in favor of industry studies; and (7) ignored the growing amount of field data which now links the use of neonic-treated seeds to pollinator failure on a landscape scale. The assessment completely failed, therefore, to appreciate and acknowledge the considerable and damaging effect that neonic-treated seeds are having on pollinator populations and insect prey more broadly (Mineau 2020).

The Pollinator Stewardship Council and the American Bird Conservancy have often collaborated on legal and legislative advocacy work.  We greatly appreciate their contribution to the ever-increasing body of scientific research illustrating the catastrophic impacts of neonics.  

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