EPA assessment finds 3 popular neonicotinoid insecticides jeopardize endangered plants and animals’ existence

The answer to prevent further extinction of up to 41 percent of the world's insects is a “serious reduction in pesticide usage.”

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The existence of more than 200 plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act are being jeopardized by three popular neonicotinoid insecticides. The Environmental Protection Agency released an assessment that found the neonicotinoid insecticides, clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, are harmful to protected species.

With neonicotinoids being the most popular insecticides used in the United States, studies show they play a major role in population-level declines of bees, birds, butterflies and freshwater invertebrates, according to a press release.

“The EPA’s analysis shows we’ve got a five-alarm fire on our hands, and there’s now no question that neonicotinoids play an outsized role in our heartbreaking extinction crisis,” Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “The EPA has to use the authority it has to take fast action to ban these pesticides so future generations don’t live in a world without bees and butterflies and the plants that depend on them.”

The assessment found that 166, or 9% of all endangered species, are likely to be jeopardized by clothianidin, 199 species, or 11% of all endangered plants and animals are likely jeopardized by imidacloprid, and 204, or 11% of all endangered species are likely to be jeopardized by thiamethoxam. A few species likely to be driven to extinction by these neonicotinoids insecticides, which are banned in the European Union, include Attwater’s greater prairie-chicken, rusty patched bumblebee, Karner blue butterfly, American burying beetle, Western prairie fringed orchid, vernal pool fairy shrimp and the spring pygmy sunfish.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “neonicotinoids are used on hundreds of millions of acres of agricultural lands across the country” causing pollinator populations to decline nationwide.

Since the insecticides are systemic, they are fully absorbed by plants, including its nectar, pollen and fruit, therefore making the entire plant toxic and causing a “catastrophic decline of insects,” scientists said. The answer to prevent further extinction of up to 41 percent of the world’s insects is a “serious reduction in pesticide usage,” authors of a major scientific review said.

“Given the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to lift a finger to protect endangered species from pesticides, we commend the EPA for completing this analysis and revealing the disturbing reality of the massive threat these pesticides pose,” Burd said. “The Biden administration will have the stain of extinction on its hands if it doesn’t muster the courage to stand up to Big Ag and ban these chemicals.”

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