Out of concern for bees, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on May 20 that the registrations for 12 neonicotinoid-based products used as pesticides in agriculture would be canceled, according to a notice on the Federal Register. The companies that registered the pesticides, including Syngenta, Valent, and Bayer, voluntarily requested the cancellations as part of a settlement agreement with environmental groups in December 2018, reports Bloomberg Environment. The companies may continue to sell and distribute existing stock of the products until 2020, according to the notice.
The 12 products are among a total of 59 that contain the neonicotinoid ingredients clothianidin and thiamethoxam, according to Bloomberg. Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals, meaning that when absorbed by a plant they can spread through the entire organism and are sometimes toxic to insects that feed on it.
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The settlement in December 2018 was related to the Endangered Species Act, according to Bloomberg. Beekeepers and environmental groups were putting pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address the toxic effects of the pesticides on bees. In May 2017, a federal court ruled that the agency acted in violation of the Act when it registered 59 pesticides containing neonicotinoids.
Although the companies making the pesticides say that their products are rigorously tested before going to market, studies by academic researchers have shown that neonicotinoids are harmful to bees. The EPA is now legally bound to assess the effects of neonicotinoids on endangered species, reports The Washington Post.
The EPA has canceled registrations for neonicotinoids in the past, says agency spokesperson John Konkus to the Post. “For the EPA to pull a previously registered pesticide is a pretty major step,” says Mark Winston of Simon Fraser University to the Post. “It’s not something they do very often.”
Experts say they are hopeful that removing neonicotinoid products from the market will benefit honeybee populations, and, in turn, food crops. “Today’s cancellation of these neonicotinoid pesticides is a hard-won battle and landmark step in the right direction,” says George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety, to Bloomberg.