NEWS
Need To Bee Accurate
Pam Smith DTN\Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor
Mon Dec 15, 2014 09:26 AM CST
(Page 1 of 2)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Crop news got sticky Tuesday when a news agency report and an advocacy group press release reported EPA was set to restrict the use of neonicotinoids.

A honeybee dines on butterfly weed. (DTN photo by Pam Smith)

It's not true ... yet.

EPA has said publicly it is looking at potential restrictions on a number of chemicals that could negatively affect bee health. They also recently released a surprising (and controversial) assessment that neonicotinoid insecticides show little benefit in soybeans. However, news that the agency was set to issue actual restrictions turned out to be false.

DTN Staff Reporter Todd Neeley quickly got EPA Spokesperson Cathy Milbourn on the phone. She said the agency has made no decisions about restricting any chemicals, and they would not do so without issuing a news release first.

Good to know, but the incident was an even better reminder of why we make calls to substantiate information. Printing a news release without following up first is an easy way to get stung.

Still, farmers shouldn't get too comfortable. This media misstep should be taken as a wakeup call. This neonicotinoid/pollinator issue has real wings. Milbourn said the inaccurate reports fueled a frenzy of press inquiries on Tuesday that included calls from NBC.

Today DTN released a telling tale of why EPA released the soybean neonicotinoid report ahead of schedule. Our staff reporter, Emily Unglesbee, doggedly hounded EPA for an explanation of how the benefit assessment was conducted and why it was issued early. The bottom line: The suspected role of neonics in issues of pollinator health is putting a priority on re-registration reviews. Read more about that here: http://bit.ly/….

Ironically, Friends of the Earth (FOE), the advocacy group that issued the premature press release, wasn't satisfied with the EPA actions. They called for even more stringent measures than those they reported EPA had taken. Again, the report EPA had acted was false.

FOE Food and Technology Director Lisa Archer said in a prepared statement: "Beekeepers, farmers and our food supply have been waiting far too long for the EPA to listen to the growing body of science linking neonicotinoids pesticides to pollinator declines. It is encouraging that EPA is starting to follow the lead of Ontario and the European Union by restricting neonicotinoid pesticides.

"However, as currently laid out, EPA's restrictions do not go far enough. The weight of the science tells us that we must suspend systemic bee-killing pesticides on cosmetic and agricultural uses -- including seed treatments -- year round and nationwide to protect bees, our environment and our food supply." Friends of the Earth claimed the announcement came as a result of a June 2014 presidential memorandum that charged EPA with assessing the effects of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bees and other pollinators within 180 days. The Friends of the Earth news release can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/…

During a visit to Monsanto several weeks ago Bill Reeves, Regulatory Policy and Scientific Affairs Manager for Monsanto, told DTN reporters that farmers need to respond to the soybean report posted on the Federal Register. Public comments are open through December 22. The EPA is expected to review those comments sometime in early 2015, Reeves said.

"What we're focusing on now is talking to our customers and saying, if you see value here, you need to talk about it -- you need to submit comments and tell them what value you see," Reeves said. Monsanto does not manufacture neonicotinoid insecticides, but they and most other seed companies offer treated seed. Bayer, Syngenta and Valent are the major manufacturers of neonicotinoid seed treatments.

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