First Advisor

Christopher Shortell

Term of Graduation

Spring 2016

Date of Publication

Spring 7-8-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




Neonicotinoids -- Risk assessment, Ecological risk assessment, Honeybee -- Effect of pesticides on, Insect pollinators -- Effect of pesticides on



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 105 pages)


The potential harm caused to bees and other pollinators by the widespread use of neonicotinoids has the capacity to pose a real and immediate threat to both the environment and humans. The benefits that bees and other pollinators provide, combined with the potential of harm they may face, are important enough to warrant a more comprehensive testing apparatus by which to evaluate threats to their population. Environmentally, bees and other pollinators are an important piece of ecosystemic balance--from pest management to pollination of plants that are a part of many species' diet. Anthropologically speaking, the way of life humans have been accustomed to and even need in order to survive is also largely dependent on a healthy population of bees and other pollinators; up to 70% of plants and vegetables we eat are directly a result of pollinators, and one third of every mouthful humans consume is attributed to pollinators. Without a healthy population of pollinators, the agricultural variety and nutritional availability would drastically decrease. Moreover, these agricultural products pollinators are responsible for also affect billions of dollars on both a national and global level. In many ways, the economic stability of the United States is at an equal risk as the pollinators. For example, an inability to produce many of our own agricultural staples would leave local and regional livelihoods disrupted and change the United States' import/export position. Moreover, this is not just a national problem. Pollinators are responsible for over 150 billion dollars globally in agriculture. Many of the nutrients humans need to be healthy would be in short supply.

While scientists continue to study the possible effects of neonicotinoids on pollinators, how should policy makers respond? In this thesis, I argue that the various and drastic ways in which pollinators impact our environment and every day life, combined with the potential of the harsh threats their collapse would entail, warrant a more stringent approach to the evaluation of potential harms like neonicotinoids. An ethical risk assessment, as I define one, would be an appropriate tool to apply to this situation to guide policy makers in drafting regulations even in the absence of scientific certainty. Ethical risk assessments are a tool by which to evaluate the moral and ethical responsibilities in a whole host of different scenarios, one of which is neonics and pollinators. In other words, this ethical risk assessment will be used as an instrument by which to determine whether or not there is a sufficient risk to the population of pollinators, thus determining whether regulation is appropriate. Through application of this risk assessment, I will show that in this particular case regulation is appropriate due to the risks neonics pose to pollinators in light of the evidence that we do have.

I develop a set of criteria for an ethical risk assessment. The criteria are a result of a combination of existing literature and some novel connections I draw here. This list, I argue, is what constitutes an ethical risk assessment. Ethical risk assessment, grounded in Utility Theory, is appropriate here because of its calculative apparatus and sociopolitical applicability.


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