An EPA analysis of neonicotinoid seed treatments has concluded that there is "little or no increase in soybean yields using most neonicotinoid seed treatments when compared to using no pest control at all," the agency said Thursday.
A Federal Register notice inviting the public to comment on the analysis will publish in the near future, the agency said.
The agency is reviewing neonicotinoids – a class of insecticides widely used on U.S. crops – with particular emphasis for their impact on pollinators.
"We have made the review of neonicotinoid pesticides a high priority," Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a statement. "In our analysis of the economic benefits of this use we concluded that, on a national scale, U.S. soybean farmers see little or no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments."
During the review of the neonicotinoids, EPA found that many scientific publications claim that treating soybean seeds has little value. Part of the assessment examined the effectiveness of these seed treatments for pest control and estimated the impacts on crop yields and quality, as well as financial losses and gains.
EPA reported, according to the analysis, that: There is no increase in soybean yield using most neonicotinoid seed treatments when compared to using no pest control at all; Alternative insecticides applied as sprays are available and effective; and all major alternatives are comparable in cost.
Neonicotinoid seed treatment, however, could provide an insurance benefit against sporadic and unpredictable insect pests, but this potential benefit is not likely to be large or widespread throughout the United States, EPA said.
EPA said it will use the analysis to move forward with the assessment of the risks and benefits under registration review for the neonicotinoid pesticides.
Review contrary to CropLife America findings
The results of the analysis are contrary to a December, 2013, CropLife America review of seed treatments, which found seed treatments of insecticides or fungicides may produce healthier or more uniform crops.
Seed treatments also increase crop value and allow growers to plant earlier in the season while reducing potential environmental exposure through precise application, CropLife said.
CropLife America's Seed Treatment report suggested that the biggest benefits of treatments are economic, noting that seed treatment helped contribute to nearly $80 billion worth of value to American corn growers in 2011 through increased protection and greater crop yields.
Groups representing corn growers and the seed industry have also been more vocal in helping growers improve stewardship of treated seeds, earlier this year releasing a guide for safe handling, planting and transport of treated seeds.