CATCH THE BUZZ
Still two, maybe three years for decision after seven years of study
U.S. EPA will make a decision on how to regulate neonicotinoids in 2016 or 2017, Jim Jones, the agency's head of chemical safety and pollution prevention, and who oversees EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, the body that approves and regulates pesticides.said this today.
Jones said EPA will begin analyzing and releasing data from its long-term study on the effect of neonicotinoids on honey bee populations next year, with a conclusion on the pesticides expected one to two years later. This moves the date up from a earlier time frame of 2017 to 2018.
Neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides to control chewing pests, have been linked to widespread bee deaths. Discussion on EPA's regulation of neonicotinoids has become central to efforts to restore bee colonies. Jones acknowledged the lengthy process the agency has taken to reach a conclusion on the chemicals.
"We are frustrated with the pace," he said. "But at the end of the day we need to recognize the science."
EPA is conducting a multi-year study on the effect of low levels of neonicotinoids on bee health. The agency formed a working group more than seven years ago on bee health.
Last week, EPA found that neonicotinoid treatments on soybean seeds provide little added benefits to the crops. The review did find that the seed treatments provided more benefits to corn, Jones said.
While environmental groups have long pressed EPA to restrict neonicotinoids, scientists maintain that the pesticides are but one of many factors that have contributed to honeybee declines. Other stressors include the parasitic Varroa mite that transmits bacteria and viruses to bees and loss of forage plants on which bees feed.
There are several theories on how neonicotinoids affect honey bees, including that the insecticides wear down bees' immune systems, leaving them susceptible to disease.
EPA is also looking to develop an approach that would coordinate contractor-provided services to avoid pesticide exposure when bees are out. For example, the agency would work with almond growers to plan a pest control schedule with commercial beekeepers during pollination season. Several states, including Mississippi, Colorado and Florida, are working to develop plans to protect pollinators.