U.S. Should Follow European Union Lead to Ban Neonicotinoid Pesticides

Birds, Other Wildlife, and Our Environment at Risk

Contact: Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy, 202-888-7490

(Washington, D.C., April 27, 2018) In a move that illustrates growing awareness of the toxicity of the world's most widely used class of pesticides, the European Union has voted to ban almost all outdoor uses of three neonicotinoids due to their buildup in the environment, particularly in waterways, and the persistent harm that they pose to bees and other pollinators. The ban on imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam is set to go into effect by the end of 2018.

White-crowned Sparrow by Menno Schaefer/Shutterstock. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been found to cause emaciation, reproductive impairments, disruption in migratory pathways, and even death in songbirds.

Neonicotinoids (or “neonics”) are also toxic to birds and invertebrates, even in small quantities. “We applaud the European Union's leadership to protect birds and the environment from harmful neonicotinoid pesticides,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy for American Bird Conservancy. “We call on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to follow suit and restrict the use of the most dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides to protect birds and bees, and to ensure that our environment will not continue accumulating these dangerous chemicals.”

Neonics are found in hundreds of commonly used products, including insect sprays, seed treatments, soil drenches, and tree injections. A “systemic” pesticide, neonics cannot be removed from treated plants. Instead, they are taken up by the plant and transported to all tissues – including the leaves, flowers, roots and stems, as well as pollen and nectar.

Neonicotinoids have the potential to affect entire food chains. They are persistent in the environment, infiltrate groundwater, and have cumulative and largely irreversible effects on invertebrates. That means that neonics are harming the diverse wildlife that pollinates our crops and controls our pests for free.

American Bird Conservancy's 2013 report, a review of 200 studies, concluded that a single seed treated with neonics is enough to kill a songbird. Lesser amounts can emaciate the birds, impair reproduction, and disrupt their migratory pathways.

“We've known these chemicals are wiping out wildlife for five years now, but the EPA has yet to take action,” said Holmer. “We urge citizens to speak out in support of a legislative effort, the Saving America's Pollinators Act, H.R. 5015, to restrict the most harmful neonicotinoid pesticides.”

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