The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released Oct. 16 an analysis of the benefits of neonicotinoid seed treatments for insect control in soybeans, concluding that there is "little or no increase in soybean yields using most neonicotinoid seed treatments" compared to using no pest control at all.
Neonicotinoid pesticides are a class of insecticides widely used on U.S. crops that EPA is reviewing with particular emphasis for their impact on pollinators. A Federal Register notice inviting the public to comment on the analysis will be published in the near future.
"We have made the review of neonicotinoid pesticides a high priority," said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety & 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."
During the review of the neonicotinoids, EPA found that many scientific publications claim that treating soybean seeds has little value. Part of EPA's assessment examined the effectiveness of these seed treatments for pest control and estimated the impacts on crop yields and quality, as well as financial losses and gains. The law requires EPA to consider the benefits of using pesticides as well as the risks.
The analysis concluded that:
* There is no increase in soybean yield using most neonicotinoid seed treatments when compared to using no pest control at all.
* Alternative insecticides applied as sprays are available and effective.
* All major alternatives are comparable in cost.
* Neonicotinoid seed treatment could provide an insurance benefit against sporadic and unpredictable insect pests, but this potential benefit is not likely to be large or widespread throughout the U.S.
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 for neonicotinoid pesticides. Registration review — the periodic re-evaluation of pesticides to determine if they continue to meet the safety standard — can result in EPA discontinuing certain uses, placing limits on the pesticide registration and requiring other label changes.