Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–July 2, 2012, The French Ministry of Agriculture has issued a ban on the neonicotinoid pesticide thiamethoxam due to concerns over the chemical’s impacts on pollinators, especially honey bees. The pesticide product containing thiamethoxam, Cruiser OSR, is manufactured by Swiss chemical giant Syngenta and has been used as a seed treatment on canola seed. The French Agriculture Minister, Stephane Le Foll, had announced in June that his agency was considering a ban on the pesticide and asked Syngenta to submit any new data the company had on the chemical. Apparently finding this data insufficient evidence that thiamethoxam was safe for pollinators, the agency withdrew the permit for Cruiser OSR last Friday. The ban is expected to take effect at the start of the next canola planting season in late summer.
Thiamethoxam is a neonicotinoid insecticide used to coat seeds prior to planting. When the seed germinates, the plant that grows from it takes the chemical up through its vascular system and expresses it through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets from which bees forage and drink. Thiamethoxam is very closely related to another neonicotinoid insecticide, clothianidin. When insects ingest thiamethoxam, their digestive system metabolizes it to clothianidin, killing the insect.
As France acts to protect its pollinators from pesticides, the U.S. continues to allow the uses of these highly toxic chemicals to continue. The French ban comes more than a week after the passage of the 90 day period during which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was asked to take action on clothianidin in a legal petition filed in March by a coalition of commercial beekeepers and environmental organizations. It is not unusual for an agency to miss a petition deadline such as this, but due to the urgent nature of this particular issue, the petitioners are deeply concerned about any added delay. Tell Congress and EPA that the U.S. should join France in taking a precautionary approach to our pollinator crisis.
Neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid in addition to clothianidin and thiamethoxam, are highly toxic to a range of insects, including honey bees and other pollinators. They are particularly dangerous because, in addition to being acutely toxic in high doses, they also result in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen and water droplets laced with the chemical as well as dust that is released into the air when treated seeds that have been coated with the chemicals are planted. Previous research has shown that these effects cause significant problems for the health of individual honey bees as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies, including disruptions in mobility, navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, and overall hive activity.
The emergency legal petition to EPA was filed on March 21, 2012 and asked the agency to suspend all registrations for pesticides containing clothianidin. The petition, which is supported by over one million citizen petition signatures worldwide, targets the pesticide for its harmful impacts on honey bees. The legal petition establishes that EPA failed to follow its own regulations when it granted a conditional, or temporary, registration to clothianidin in 2003 without a required field study establishing that the pesticide would have no “unreasonable adverse effects” on pollinators. The granting of the conditional registration was contingent upon the subsequent submission of an acceptable field study, but this requirement has not been met. EPA continues to allow the use of clothianidin nine years after acknowledging that it had an insufficient legal basis for initially allowing its use. Additionally, the product labels on pesticides containing clothianidin are inadequate to prevent excessive damage to non-target organisms, which is a second violation of the requirements for using a pesticide and further warrants removing all such mislabeled pesticides from use.
For more information on how pesticides affect pollinators and what you can do to help, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Program page.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.