In an effort to reduce risks to bees, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation filed an official notice of formal rulemaking as a first step in the regulatory process to limit how and when neonicotinoids can be used in agricultural settings.
Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides that are widely used as an alternative to chlorpyrifos, which DPR ended virtually all use of in 2020. At certain levels of exposure, neonicotinoids present risks to pollinators. DPR’s proposed regulations are based on extensive scientific studies and would create new requirements and restrictions for the use of neonicotinoid products containing any of four active ingredients: imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran. DPR estimates the regulations will impact 57 products currently registered in California and will reduce the amount of neonicotinoids applied across the state by approximately 45%.
The regulations include tiered restrictions based on the chemical used, the type of crop and the time of year the neonicotinoid is applied in order to protect pollinator health. For example, applications to certain flowering plants that are attractive to bees would be prohibited when the plants are in bloom and when bees may be foraging. The regulations also set limits on applications of multiple neonicotinoids and what application methods may be used by growers. They also include an exemption for quarantine pests to provide the option, if necessary, to treat pests that can severely damage crops and food supply chains. The regulations address both risks to bees and ensures the protection of pollinators critical to growers and the agricultural sector.
“DPR evaluates pesticides on an ongoing basis using the best available science and data to mitigate adverse impacts on ecosystems and the environment,” said DPR Director Julie Henderson. “Our neonicotinoid reevaluation led to the significant advance in pollinator protection reflected in our proposed regulation.”
The department began re-evaluating imidacloprid and the related neonicotinoids, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran in 2009. DPR completed its scientific review in July 2018, publishing the California Neonicotinoid Risk Determination, and began development of control measures necessary to protect pollinator health. The department’s development of draft regulations included a pair of initial public webinars and a public comment period in 2020. The formal rulemaking process initiated by DPR today will include the opportunity for the public to submit written comments on the proposed regulations. For more information, see DPR’s Neonicotinoid Reevaluation webpage.
“Our continuous evaluation of pesticides plays a critical role in accelerating a transition to safer, more sustainable pest management that protects the health of our communities, our pollinators and the environment as a whole,” said Henderson.
As part of its regulatory mandate, DPR evaluates pesticide products for potential human health and environmental effects before they can be registered for legal sale and use in California. Prior to DPR review, pesticide products are evaluated and registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). U.S. EPA’s and DPR’s registration review and required pesticide label instructions – including application instructions and personal protective equipment requirements – are designed to mitigate potential risks to human health and the environment.
DPR’s registration process includes the review of extensive scientific studies on human health and environmental impacts, safety and efficacy. After pesticide products have gone through this process and are registered, DPR also carries out a continuous evaluation process for pesticides following registration to take into account evolving scientific understanding. This continuous evaluation process can include formal reevaluation of pesticides and mitigation measures, as in the case of the neonicotinoids that are the subject of the department’s proposed regulation, conducting exposure studies, conducting human health risk assessments, monitoring air and water for pesticides, and investigating information that indicates a pesticide may have caused an adverse effect on human health or the environment. Pesticides currently undergoing DPR’s re-evaluation process are listed on the department’s website and the results inform state-specific restrictions, mitigation measures or conditions for use.
ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT OF PESTICIDE REGULATION
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s mission is to protect human health and the environment by fostering safer and sustainable pest management practices and operating a robust regulatory system to monitor and regulate the sale and use of pesticides across the state.
DPR’s work includes conducting scientific evaluation of pesticides to assess and mitigate potential harm to human health or the environment prior to and following registration, registering all pesticides prior to sale or use in California, monitoring for pesticides in the air and water, and enforcing pesticide laws and regulations in coordination with 55 County Agricultural Commissioners and their 400 field inspectors. DPR invests in innovative research to encourage the development and adoption of integrated pest management tools and practices and conducts outreach to ensure pesticide workers, farmworkers and local communities have access to pesticide safety information. More information about DPR can be found at www.cdpr.ca.gov.