EPA’s conditional registration of Aminocyclopyrachlor and Clothianidin illustrates the dangers of approving a pesticide before completing a comprehensive appraisal of its risks

The agribusiness conglomerate DuPont has received more than 30,000 damage claims arising from its sale of a pesticide that resulted in death and injury to hundreds of thousands of evergreen trees, particularly Norway spruce and white pine. DuPont marketed the pesticide, sold under the trade name Imprelis, based on a conditional registration that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted in 2010. The active ingredient in Imprelis, aminocyclopyrachlor, is biologically active in soil and rapidly absorbed by roots and leaves. Aminocyclopyrachlor is in the chemical class of the pyrimidine carboxylic acids, which is similar to pyridine carboxylic acid herbicides that includes the herbicides aminopyralid, clopyralid and picloram. The two classes of herbicides share characteristics, including high persistence in the environment, systemic incorporation into plants and high toxicity during seedling emergence. Conditional registration is allowed under Section 3(c)(7) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act prior to the registrant submitting all statutorily required data. EPA is authorized to grant a conditional registration on the assumption that no unreasonable adverse effects on environmental and human health will result.

Organic practices place the environment first

After giving you my thoughts last week on what benefits the organic approach has for the gardener, I am widening the lens this week to look at how the environment can reap the rewards of gardeners eschewing synthetic chemicals in favour of natural principles. First, an organic garden is a biodiverse, or wildlife-friendly, garden. To harbour any hope of achieving one you must place your foot on the first rung of the ladder, which means creating healthy soil – the building block. The goal is crumbly and airy soil which contains countless billions of microscopic organisms that break down organic matter, thus adding nutrients. The worms you can see play a vital part in developing the soil, but they depend on the microscopic bacteria you can't see.

Hedgerows, one of the defining features of our countryside, are vitally important to wildlife

News that farmer Fraser Jones has withdrawn his application to remove 11.3km of hedgerows, near Shrewsbury, is today welcomed by The Wildlife Trusts. The news comes on the final day for comments on this case. Had the County Council granted the application, 37 individual fields would have been lost. Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscapes for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Hedgerows, one of the defining features of the countryside, are vitally important to wildlife. A recent survey of an English hedge revealed the presence of 1,671 species including butterflies, moths, bees, birds, small mammals and numerous invertebrates.” A public outcry against the plan resulted in more than 350 comments being submitted to Shropshire County Council from local people, leading environmentalists and academics around the country.

Common practice for the monitoring of insecticides in water resources reveals shortcomings

This is shown by a current study conducted by the Landau-based Institute of Environmental Sciences of the University of Koblenz-Landau. Until now water samples have mostly been taken on fixed dates, for example once per month. However, insecticides enter water resources very irregularly and, even though their concentrations exceed the threshold levels only for a short time, their harmful effect is present. The consequence: If one bases the evaluation upon the zero values often measured within the scope of regular sampling, the overall evaluation underestimates the actual risks.

EU hints at insecticide ban over threat to bees

The European Commission hinted on Wednesday that it could ban several insecticides, some made by German chemicals giant Bayer, after scientists found disturbing evidence of harm to bees. The EU's food safety agency had reported "disturbing conclusions on three types of insecticides," a spokesman for EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said. Following the findings, the Commission would be writing to manufacturers Bayer, Syngenta and Cruiser OSR to seek their response by January 25, the spokesman said, adding that the topic would be taken up again on January 31. In due course, the "Commission and (EU) member states will take the necessary measures," the spokesman said, without specifying.

UK Premiere of Dutch documentary 'Murder of the Honeybee'

The critical level of bee mortality is a major threat to our food supply. Eighty percent of all plants on earth depend on pollination by bees for reproduction and evolution. Of all the countries in Europe, the Netherlands has the largest bee mortality rate. This Dutch documentary investigates the possible link between the use of a new insecticide, Imidacloprid, and the rise of bee mortality. The link is denied by both the insecticide producers and the chief advisor to the Duch government; Wageningen University and Recearch Centre (WUG). And yet the use of this chemical is prohibited in France as it was found to be linked to the death of bee population. Can the honeybees be saved?


In July 2010 I published a ground-breaking discovery in the journal Toxicology (attached). My paper convincingly demonstrated that the risk of chronic exposure of arthropods (including bees) to a relatively new class of pesticides, called neonicotinoids, which are mainly produced by Bayer CropScience, had been severely underestimated. There is general consensus now about this conclusion. The discovery explained bee decline. The neonicotinoids are an important product of Bayer CropScience, generating hundreds of millions each year.

European Commission launches public consultation on the future of organic production

The European Commission is launching today an online consultation aimed at all citizens interested in organic production in Europe. Dacian Cioloş, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: "Today, resource management and sustainable agricultural production are becoming more and more important politically, and consumers are looking closely at how their food is produced. This is therefore a good moment to underline our commitment to the highest standards for organic production and to review our organic rules where necessary in order to see how to create the best possible conditions to encourage the development of organic production in Europe. The open consultation is a great opportunity for European citizens to be involved in preparing the future of European organic agriculture."

The consultation will run from 15 January to 10 April 2013. Once all the aspects have been addressed and examined closely, the European Commission will be in a position to elaborate proposals for a renewed political and legal framework for organic agriculture in Europe, to be proposed by the Commission around the end of 2013.

Syngenta brands EFSA risk assessment ‘hurried and inadequate’

Europe’s food safety body has stoked the fires over the possible links between the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and the declines in bee populations in the United States, Europe and elsewhere with three reports published today. The work has attracted fierce criticism from John Atkin, chief operating officer at Syngenta, the Basel, Switzerland-based manufacturer of thiamethoxam. In a statement published today Atkin said, “It is obvious to us that EFSA has found itself under political pressure to produce a hurried and inadequate risk assessment, which even they acknowledge contains a high level of uncertainty. Their report, compiled in under three months, has not taken account of the comprehensive scientific studies that preceded the launch of neonicotinoids, and many years of extensive monitoring in the field. This report is unworthy of EFSA and of its scientists.”

EFSA identifies risks to bees from neonicotinoids

EFSA scientists have identified a number of risks posed to bees by three neonicotinoid insecticides (attached). The Authority was asked by the European Commission to assess the risks associated with the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam as seed treatment or as granules, with particular regard to: their acute and chronic effects on bee colony survival and development; their effects on bee larvae and bee behaviour; and the risks posed by sub-lethal doses of the three substances. In some cases EFSA was unable to finalise the assessments due to shortcomings in the available data.The risk assessments focused on three main routes of exposure: exposure from residues in nectar and pollen in the flowers of treated plants; exposure from dust produced during the sowing of treated seeds or application of granules; and exposure from residues in guttation fluid produced by treated plants.