EPA determines three agricultural insecticides could threaten endangered species

EPA determines three agricultural insecticides could threaten endangered species
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday released draft evaluations identifying three common agricultural insecticides as likely harmful to the majority of endangered plants and animals, including all 38 endangered amphibians.

In the studies, the EPA identified three insecticides, all part of a group known as neonicotinoids: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The three are used for ornamental vegetation as well as crops and turf. According to the draft evaluations, each of the three meet the criteria for “likely to adversely affect" (LAA) at least one endangered or protected species.  

The neonicotinoids in question affect endangered and protected species at varying levels, according to the EPA. Imidacloprid will likely adversely affect 1,445 plant and animal species, nearly 80 percent of all species, and affect 658 species’ designated critical habitats, according to the agency.

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It found thiamethoxam will likely adversely affect 1,396 endangered species and adversely modify 644 species’ critical habitats. Meanwhile, clothianidin was deemed likely to adversely affect 1,225 species and adversely modify 644 species’ habitats.

Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the assessments indicated the need for aggressive action on the agency’s part.

“Knowing what they know now about the gravity of the impacts these pesticides have on endangered species, they should work to restrict their uses in the places where they are having the most impact,” Burd told The Hill. This could include steps such as labeling changes that ban the use of the pesticides in protected amphibian habitats.

“These changes would not dramatically impact agriculture, but it would make a big difference for the survival of the species,” she added. “There are only 38 listed [endangered] amphibians. Many of them are in highly restricted ranges. Common sense measures like changes to labels to require buffers from waterways and prohibitions on use in key habitats are the most minimal actions that the EPA can and should begin pursuing now.”

Burd charged that the EPA has “steadfastly ignored” its obligations under the Endangered Species Act to examine the impacts of the insecticides, but “they keep losing their arguments against complying with the law when taken to court, so they went into this kicking and screaming.”

With the analysis complete, she said, the EPA “should absolutely factor their findings” into the reapproval process for the compounds.