A new report based on comments during eight listening sessions concludes that production costs would rise and quality and yields wouuld fall should neonicotinoid insecticides be banned in North America.
The study, "The Value of Neonicotinoids in North American Agriculture" was conducted on behalf of Growing Matters, a coalition comprising Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and Valent U.S.A. with support from Mitsui Chemicals Agro Inc., according to its website.
The neonicotinoids examined include clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam used as seed treatments, soil applications and foliar applications, according to the report.
The public listening sessions were conducted between November 2013 and March in Saskatchewan and Ontario, Canada; California, Tennessee, Iowa, Illinois, Florida and Washington.
Participants were asked, "What would happen if neonicotinoids were no longer available?"
More than 70 growers and other agricultural professionals discussed their crop production methods. Each was paid $500-$750 for travel expenses.
Crops represented include corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, canola, rice, dry beans, peas, potatoes, citrus, tree fruits, grapes, tomatoes and other vegetables.
The main themes expressed were that growers would have to switch to harsher chemicals, should neonics be banned.
In addition, they said their production costs would go up, pesticide applications would increase, yields and quality would go down, and integrated pest management would be challenged as broad-spectrum insecticides affected beneficial insects.
For some pests, such as the Asian citrus psyllid in young citrus trees, participants said there are no viable alternatives.
Panelists raised the possibility that loss of this chemical class could threaten domestic food security and individual food affordability.
They also expressed frustration that emotion rather than just science has entered into the debate.
Neonicotinoids have come under scrutiny as a possible contributor to the decline of honeybees.
The European Union has placed a 2-year moratorium on the chemical class so further studies can be conducted.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has required product registrants to place special bee icons on neonicotinoid labels to alert users of bee protection recommendations.
The report was produced by East Lansing, Mich.-based AgInfomatics LLC, an agricultural consulting firm established by professors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington State University.
Read the full report on GrowingMatters.org.