Neonicotinoids and Colony Collapse Disorder: Regulating and Product Stewardship in the Face of Uncertainty

February 24, 2015 11:00 am — 12:30 pm

An ELI Membership Seminar

Pollinating insects in Europe and North America have exhibited significant population declines in recent years. Honeybees, in particular, have been affected by colony collapse disorder, which impacts commercial and feral hives alike. The causes and significance of the crisis are still debated, but some point to the use of neonicotinoids, a relatively new class of pesticides, as the catalyst.

The response to this threat and the underlying uncertainty has been dissonant. For example, the European Union is in the middle of a two-year moratorium on the use of several neonicotinoids, a decision guided by their formulation of the precautionary principle of environmental risk management. The U.S. EPA, however, first registered these compounds in the 1990’s as an environmentally preferable replacement for previously-used insecticides. The agency began reviewing the first of six neonicotinoids in 2008 and is now attempting to intensify and accelerate review. Meanwhile, chemical companies are seeking to expand the compounds’ approved uses.

Fraught with both scientific uncertainty and the potential for significant agricultural and ecological consequences, the debate over neonicotinoid regulation is at the forefront of environmental policy discussions, raising important issues about regulation and product stewardship in the face of scientific uncertainty paired with significant risk. What is the state of the science around the role neonicotinoids may play in pollinator decline? What other factors may be significant causes? What should be the approach of regulators and company product stewards given the scientific uncertainly? Our panel discussed the current debates regarding neonicotinoid pesticides and their regulation.

Jim Aidala, Senior Government Consultant, Bergeson & Campbell, PC (moderator)
Lori Ann Burd, Environmental Health Director, Center for Biological Diversity
Ray McAllister, Senior Director of Regulatory Policy, CropLife America
Tom Moriarty, Team Leader, Pesticide Re-Evaluation Division, U.S. EPA
Tim Tucker, President, American Beekeeping Federation

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