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Pollinator Health Is The Focus Of Proposed EPA Pesticide Restrictions

Capri23auto via Pixabay

A new proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency could add restrictions to a group of insecticides that are known to have harmful effects on bees and other pollinators.

The five chemicals are known as neonicotinoids or “neonics” for short. They’re widely used in agriculture to control pests.

The proposed changes for neonics would include better targeting of the pesticides to keep them off ecologically risky crops, protecting bees by restricting when pesticides can be applied to blooming crops, added labeling to advise homeowners not to use these chemicals and requiring some farm workers to wear extra protective clothing.

“These restrictions will prevent some major incidents of mass die-offs, but really it’s just hardly even touching the bigger issue of the persistence of these systemic pesticides in the environment,” says Ashley Chesser, executive director for the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides in Eugene.

Chesser instead advocates for a ban on neonicotinoids to protect pollinator, birds and human health.

Neonicotinoids are commonly used on commercial crops like corn and soybeans. In Oregon they’re applied to ornamental plants and trees.

The farm advocacy group Oregonians for Food and Shelter is still reviewing the EPA proposal, according to Executive Director Jenny Dresler.

“Neonicotinoids continue to be an important tool for growers to control pests,” Dresler wrote in an email.  

Comments about the proposed EPA regulations will be open for the next 60 days.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.