The American Soybean Association said Friday that contrary to conclusions presented in a recent U.S. EPA report questioning the efficacy of neonicotinoid seed treatments on soybeans, treatments are "critical" tools for farmers.
ASA provided the comments in response to a public comment period on the EPA's report. The comment period expired on Jan. 23.
In the association's comments, ASA President Wade Cowan said "…soybean producers use neonicotinoid seed treatments where they are needed and effective, and don't use them where not."
Cowan also noted that neonicotinoid seed treatment use is tailored to a very specific set of circumstances, and in those settings, that particular technology is critical.
"Farmers balance the efficacy of different treatments based on their individual farms, and experience shows that farmers who purchase seed treatment for soybeans do so because it reduces or eliminates the need for application of additional inputs after the soybean seedling has emerged," he said. "Seed treatments both protect the soybeans from insects in the soil after planting as well as protecting the seedlings as they emerge. A below-ground insect infestation has no rescue options except replanting, and in the northern growing regions, replanting is not often an option."
Cowan urged EPA to focus on science in decision-making. "We urge EPA to maintain its commitment to science in evaluating crop protection tools," he said.
Neonicotinoids have been under enhanced scrutiny as some research has suggested that their use contributes to poor pollinator health. Some groups have even requested a ban on the insecticide, along with a one-year review on their effect on bees. The EU instated a temporary ban on three types of neonics in 2013, to provide time for an expanded review of their environmental effects.
According to a report from the USDA and EPA, several factors can be traced back to honeybee population declines, including poor health, parasites and limited genetic diversity. The report recommended additional review of crop protection products and their impacts on pollinator health.
Neonicotinoid seed treatments, in particular, have been the subject of several studies, though many are conflicting. One study, prepared by AgInfomatics and commissioned by the Growing Matters consortium, found that a shift to older broad-spectrum insecticides, in place of neonics, would result in reduced crop yield and quality, disrupted pest management practices impacting beneficial insects, in some cases, damage due to a lack of suitable alternatives to manage invasive pests.