The U.S. EPA has plans to reopen a comment period on its report discussing the efficacy of neonicotinoid seed treatments on soybean yield, the agency said last week.
EPA's report, which was released in October, found 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 agency is reviewing neonicotinoids – a class of insecticides widely used on U.S. crops – with particular emphasis for their impact on pollinators.
According to the agency, the report's findings indicate that in addition to neonics having little yield benefit on soybeans, alternative insecticides applied as sprays are available and effective, and all major alternatives are comparable in cost.
A conflicting neonic study, however, found that neonicotinoids add value to the economy and if removed as an option for U.S. farmers, could contribute to expanded use of older pesticide technologies.
The study, prepared by research firm AgInfomatics and commissioned by the Growing Matters consortium, found that a shift to older broad-spectrum insecticides would result in reduced crop yield and quality, disrupted pest management practices impacting beneficial insects including honey bees and, in some cases, damage due to a lack of suitable alternatives to manage invasive pests.
CropLife America, a group that advocates for pest protection technologies in agriculture, has also found benefits to neonicotinoid seed treatments. The group said in a December 2013 review that they provide desired control of insect pest and can improve plant health.
EPA, however, is not alone in the opinion presented by its recent paper – other groups supporting bee health have come out against neonicotinoid seed treatments for an alleged link to poor pollinator health, with the Center for Food Safety suggesting that treatments are "unnecessary in most cases."
The discussion comes amid a temporary ban of three neonics in the European Union – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam. The ban is in place to allow for more time to study potential neonicotinoid effects on pollinators.
Referencing the "negative effects" of the European ban, the American Soybean Association on Monday encouraged farmers to use the additional time to comment on EPA's report.
"We believe that this case study only strengthens our position that EPA should be supporting how soybean producers are using neonic seed treatments – only when and where needed and effective," ASA said in a notice posted on its website. "This is a judicious use of crop protection products that should be rewarded, not penalized."