Regulators Violated The Law By Approving Neonicotinoids

  • A US Federal Court has ruled the EPA (regulator) violated the law when it approved neonicotinoid insecticides.
  • In a different way, did the EU regulatory bodies also violate the law when they approved neonicotinoids?
  • The EU is moving toward a total ban on neonics other than for use in greenhouses.  Yet they have approved 3 next generation neonics, but which are not categorized as 'neonics' which seemingly would escape the ban.  Have the EU regulators learned anything at all from the EFSA investigation?

Federal Court Ruling

According to the Centre for Food Safety, a Federal Court (Northern District of California) has ruled that the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) violated the Endangered Species Act when it aproved neonicotinoid insecticides.  The case (ongoing for 4 years) was brought by beekeepers (including Tom Theobald), wildlife conservation groups and food safety and consumer advocates. 

The judge ruled that the EPA had issues 59 pesticide registrations (for agricultural, landscaping and ornamental uses) unlawfully between 2007 and 2012. 

Will this result in the registrations being cancelled?

I hope so, but at the time of writing, we will have to wait and see.  According to the feature, neonic-coated seeds are used on more than 150 million acres of US corn, soybean and cotton.

Commenting, an attorney representing the beekeepers and conservation organisations, Peter Jenkins said:

 “Vast amounts of scientific literature show the hazards these chemicals pose are far worse than we knew five years ago – and it was bad even then….The nation’s beekeepers continue to suffer unacceptable mortality of 40 percent annually and higher. Water contamination by these insecticides is virtually out of control. Wild pollinators and wetland-dependent birds are in danger. EPA must act to protect bees and the environment.”

You can read more by copying and pasting the link (1) at the bottom of this page into your browser.

It’s astonishing when you consider what has actually happened here.  When regulators simply ignore the regulatory protection mechanisms, then what is the point in having them, other than to deceive the public into a false sense of security?

What about in Europe?

I argued years ago, that the EU had unlawfully approved the neonicotinoid insecticides.  Why?

Well here is just one example:

EU Regulation 1107/2009 (Annex II, 3.8.3.) states:

“An active substance, safener or synergist shall be approved only if it is established following an appropriate risk assessment on the basis of Community or internationally agreed test guidelines, that the use under the proposed conditions of use of plant protection products containing this active substance, safener or synergist: will result in a negligible exposure of honey bees, or has no unacceptable acute or chronic effects on colony survival and development, taking into account effects on honey bee larvae and honey bee behaviour.”

And yet EFSA found many weaknesses in the standards for testing of pesticides on honey bees for the purpose of Risk Assessment, and many weaknesses and gaps in the data presented to support the applications. These weaknesses included:

  • unsuitability for testing systemic pesticides such as neonicotinoids,
  • inadequacy for testing behavioural, chronic and sub-lethal effects,
  • potential colony effects not adequately measured, testing on honey bee larvae inadequate

.....among many other serious flaws.  And among their findings were:

  • Neonicotinoids show high acute toxicity to honeybees.
  • Chronical exposure of honeybees to sub-lethal doses of neonicotinoids can also result in serious effects, which include a wide range of behavioural disturbances in bees, such as problems with flying and navigation, impaired memory and learning, reduced foraging ability, as well as reduction in breeding success and disease resistance.

You can read more about their findings here.

And really, it gets even more ridiculous.

Unfortunately, the EU has, whilst moving toward a complete ban of neonicotinoid insecticides (apart from for use in greenhouses), quite recently approved 3 next-generation neonics: Sulfoxaflor, Flupyradifurone  and Cyantraniliprole.  Presumably, these would escape a ban, because they have cunningly not been labelled as neonics by the manufacturers, despite the fact that they work in essentially the same way.


At the approval of Sulfoxaflor andFlupyradifurone  PAN Europe remarked:

“The pesticide industry is trying to hide the reality behind two new chemicals that are similar to the notorious group of neonicotinoids linked to massive bee death all over the world.  Their properties clearly show that they should be classified as neonicotinoids”.

Upon the approval of Cyantraniliprole, PAN said:

Cyantraniliprole, like neonicotinoids, is a systemic insecticide and is highly toxic to bees.  PAN UK is dismayed that the EC has decided to allow such a bee-toxic pesticide onto the market. It seems that officials have learned nothing from the disastrous introduction of neonicotinoids which more and more studies are linking to large scale pollinator declines.”

They note that as part of the regulatory process, the manufacturers get to classify their own toxins.  

Professor Christopher Connolly, who has also produced researching highlighting the dangers of neonicotinoids to bees, also has previously criticised the regulators.

From The Guardian (2)

"Connolly criticised EU regulations that allow pesticide manufacturers to conduct the safety trials themselves. “It is ludicrous to have industry doing their own testing and then keeping the results as proprietary information.”

Neonicotinoids have been used for two decades, but Connolly said: “It has taken years and millions of pounds for scientists to wave a red flag.”

Will the regulators ever be fit for purpose?

Surely, the poisons should not have been approved in the first place, by the EPA or the EU regulatory bodies! 

  • Will the EPA now insist the neonics are removed from sale?
  • Will the EPA henceforth at minimum, at least enforce and abide by the regulatory process (it would be a start!)?
  • Will the EPA seek to amend the regulatory process as a result of what we now know about neonicotinoids?
  • Will the EU regulatory bodies EVER amend the regulatory process to take into account the learnings from the EFSA investigation?
  • Will the EU take a long hard look at itself, and ask how it could possibly approve 3 more next generation neonic-type poisons, let alone ask why it is allowing manufacturers to test their own poisons, keep it all fairly secret, then decide how to categorise them to conveniently escape any potential bans?

I have written before, that without meaningful change to the regulatory system, there will be no lasting, positive change.  Will it happen?  Well we shall have to see!