EPA says neonicotoid treatment on soybeans lacks benefits

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released an analysis of the benefits of neonicotinoid seed treatments for insect control in soybeans, a report all Minnesota soybean farmers should review.

Neonicotinoids are an insecticide that uses nicotine as a toxin. Neonicotinoids were developed in the 1980s and 90s. They were developed due to the reduced toxicity over organophosphate and carbamate insecticides. Neonics tend to show lower toxicity in mammals than in insects.

Joe Smentek

MN Soybean Director of Environmental Affairs Joe Smentek

A study conducted by the University of Guelph in Canada, linked the use of neonicotinoids to reductions in bee populations. Studies on these insecticides showed that neonicotinoid residues can accumulate in pollen and nectar of treated plants. The chemicals can persist in the environment. When used as a seed coating the neonicotinoids translocate to residues in pollen and nectar of the plants.

The chemicals can also move through the water in the soil to areas near fields and treated areas and enter into the tissues of other plants pollinators frequent. These types of Studies lead the EPA to analyze the use of these chemicals in soybean production.

The EPA’s analysis concluded that there is little or no increase in soybean yields using most neonicotinoid seed treatments when compared to using no pest control at all. The EPA will be publishing a notice in the Federal Register inviting the public to comment on the analysis.

“We have made the review of neonicotinoid pesticides a high priority,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “In our analysis of the economic benefits of this use we concluded that, on a national scale, U.S. soybean farmers see little or no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments.”

Dr. Paul Meints, Director of Research at Minnesota Soybean, reviewed the analysis put together by the EPA. He found that a review of current literature concerning efficacy of neonicotinoid seed treatments on soybeans would concur with the Oct. 15, 2014 un-published EPA memorandum. Use of neonicotinoid seed treatments continues to be of significant value on several crops produced in Minnesota. However, based on current scientific literature, neonicotinoid seed treatment does not show significant consistent reduction in aphid pressure in soybean production, yield increase, or increased profit potential for Minnesota soybean farmers.

This analysis is an important part of the science EPA will use to move forward with the assessment of the risks and benefits under registration review. The EPA periodically re-evaluates pesticides to determine if they continue to meet the safety standard set forth in law. The law requires EPA to balance the benefits of using the pesticides against the risks or harms that the pesticides can present. The EPA could change the permissions to use certain pesticides on certain crops, at certain times, or in certain manners as a result of a review. They could also disallow the use of a pesticide based on their review.

Neonicotinoid pesticides have been under a great deal of scrutiny in Minnesota. There were a number of bills introduced last session on pollinators, native and imported. Most likely this review by the EPA will lead to increased review of the use of these pesticides.