Attorney General Becerra Continues to Push EPA to Complete Required Evaluation of Pesticide Toxic to Pollinators, like Bees, Critical to Agriculture

Monday, November 2, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise and recirculate its draft risk assessment of flonicamid, a pesticide toxic to pollinators like bees which are critical to agriculture. Despite evidence showing that flonicamid poses a higher risk to pollinators than previously understood, the EPA has repeatedly failed to collect data from required follow-up studies and continues to move forward with the registration process despite significant information gaps. Earlier this year, Attorney General Becerra expressed concern over the EPA’s risk assessment and manufacturer ISK Biosciences’ application for new uses of flonicamid. In today’s comment letter, Attorney General Becerra once again urges the EPA to review the forthcoming follow-up studies, revise its ecological risk assessment, propose any necessary mitigation, and circulate its findings for public comment prior to issuing a registration decision.

“The Trump Administration's EPA is failing at one of its most basic jobs by plowing ahead with the registration process for flonicamid before receiving additional data on its impact to pollinators like bees,” said Attorney General Becerra. “California relies on pollination from bees for agriculture, a driving force of our state's economy. We cannot ignore the environmental and economic implications of this decision – and the EPA cannot ignore its responsibilities under the law. The EPA must do its homework before it allows flonicamid to be used for another 15 years.”

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, all pesticides must receive regulatory approval from the EPA before they are put into use. The EPA reviews pesticide registration every 15 years to ensure registration is based on current information regarding the health and environmental impacts of a pesticide’s use. Many pesticides, including flonicamid, have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years for their adverse health and environmental effects. Flonicamid is a pesticide that manages crop pests by preventing them from eating, causing insects to die of starvation or dehydration. New studies submitted by ISK show that the application of the pesticide to crops exposes bees to up to 51 times the amount of flonicamid that would cause them substantial harm, posing significant risks to these pollinators.

Flonicamid’s potential adverse effects on pollinators are of critical concern in California, where pollinators play a critical role in the environment and the economy. Pollination by native bees increases the United States’ agricultural output by more than $3 billion each year, and over a third of the country's vegetables and two-thirds of the country's fruits and nuts are grown in California. Studies show that crop yields increase substantially in areas with denser native bee populations. Yet studies also show that California’s major agricultural regions, such as the Central Valley, have experienced some of the steepest declines in native bee populations anywhere in the country.

On September 2, 2020, the EPA released a Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision for flonicamid that again failed to include and consider additional, required pollinator studies necessary for a registration decision. While the EPA claims that ISK has committed to conducting these studies, it has not committed to reviewing the data from these studies before issuing a final interim decision. In the comment letter, Attorney General Becerra argues that the EPA must gather the necessary data, describe flonicamid’s risks to pollinators, and recirculate its draft ecological risk assessment before re-registering flonicamid.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

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