The EPA Bows to Activists
Thus, it is quite possible that the EPA’s singling out cotton and citrus applications of imidacloprid as posing harm to bees had more to do with politics than science: Bees, it turns out, are not at all necessary to pollinate cotton or citrus. Hence, impugning neonic use on these self-pollinating crops may look like an easy and cost-free concession to the anti-pesticide activists. But a “freebie” for the environmentalists won’t be free for others. Since bees aren’t needed in cotton fields or orange groves—even though growers have long allowed them into their groves to make premium orange blossom honey—they will be increasingly unwelcome and banned from cotton and citrus acreage as a consequence of EPA’s dubious negative assessment.
That would be another blow to the historically symbiotic partnership between farmers and beekeepers.
And there’s another shoe waiting to drop. The EPA has yet to complete imidacloprid assessments on other crops. Legumes, melons, tree nuts, herbs and, ominously, soy—America’s second-largest export crop by volume—remain under study, with results promised by December of 2016. The EPA already has a checkered record on soy. In October 2014, it issued a puzzling negative assessment of the efficacy of neonic seed-treatments in soy production—an assessment roundly criticized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and contradicted by field research. (In any case, the EPA has traditionally been concerned with the safety of pesticides but left considerations of efficacy largely to users.)
The EPA’s conclusions concerning these remaining crops could be heavily influenced by anti-pesticide activists, who won’t take the positive aspects of the EPA’s imidacloprid assessment lying down.