EPA ignored own scientists’ warnings about bee-killing pesticide

Agency relied on flawed study by pesticide maker in granting full approval

A recently revealed memo from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that the agency ignored warnings from its scientists about a pesticide that is toxic to honeybees prior to giving the pesticide full approval.

Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder

Beekeepers and environmentalists have called on EPA to ban the pesticide clothianidin, which is manufactured by German agricultural company Bayer Crop Science, and has been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious decline of honeybee populations around the world since 2006.

The November 2nd memo written by EPA scientists identifies a Bayer study on bee toxicity as unsound after EPA quietly re-evaluated the pesticide just as it was getting ready to allow a further expansion of its use. Clothianidin (product name “Poncho”) has been widely used as a seed treatment on many of the country’s major crops for eight growing seasons under a “conditional registration” granted while EPA waited for Bayer to conduct a field study assessing the insecticide’s threat to bee colony health.

Highly toxic” to bees

The memo states: “Acute toxicity studies on honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis.”

Bayer’s field study was the contingency on which clothianidin’s conditional registration was granted in 2003. The groups claim that the initial field study guidelines, which the Bayer study failed to satisfy, were insufficient to test whether or not clothianidin contributes to CCD in a real-world scenario: the field test evaluated the wrong crop, over an insufficient time period and with inadequate controls.

The EPA memo also casts doubt on the Bayer study, stating “deficiencies were identified that render the study supplemental.”

Take pesticide off the market

According to James Frazier, Ph.D., professor of entomology at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, “Among the neonicotinoids, clothianidin is among those most toxic for honey bees; and this combined with its systemic movement in plants has produced a troubling mix of scientific results pointing to its potential risk for honey bees through current agricultural practices.” Dr. Frazier said that the most prudent course of action would be to take the pesticide off the market while the flawed study is being redone.

(Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, February 2011)