• Chemical can reduce pollination numbers, honey produced
  • EPA conducting more studies to assess other pesticides risk

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday a preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the insecticide imidacloprid shows the chemical can threaten bees, which boost the value of crops by an estimated $15 billion annually.

The assessment identified a residue level for imidacloprid of 25 parts per billion, a threshold above which effects are likely, the statement said. Fewer hive pollinators and less honey produced are among potential effects, according to the report, which was prepared in collaboration with California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation.

The “EPA is committed not only to protecting bees and reversing bee loss, but for the first time assessing the health of the colony for the neonicotinoid pesticides,” Jim Jones, assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in the statement.

With at least $15 billion in U.S. crops dependent on commercially raised honeybees, the government has allocated about $40 million a year to study the insects and other pollinators such as birds and bats, four times the 2006 level, Bloomberg reported in May.

The EPA report also showed that citrus and cotton may have residues of the pesticide in pollen and nectar above the threshold. Other crops such as corn and leafy vegetables either don’t produce nectar or have residues below EPA’s identified level.

In 2015, the EPA proposed banning the use of pesticides that are toxic to bees, including neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid, when crops are in bloom and bees are pollinating plants. The agency temporarily halted the approval of new outdoor neonicotinoid pesticide uses until bee data is submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete.

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