From Green Right Now Reports
Four beekeepers and five public-interest groups filed a federal lawsuit against the EPA this week for its role in allowing pesticides that are wiping out honeybees, causing an epidemic of hive deaths known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
CCD kills millions of beehives every year, jeopardizing agriculture around the world as these critical pollinators die en masse.
But while CCD was once portrayed as a “mysterious” syndrome of uncertain origins, it has become clear in recent years that pesticides are to blame, or at least worsen the situation, weakening and disorienting bees.
Neonicotinoid pesticides that create toxics within plants have been especially harmful to bees, which feed on the poisonous pollen of these crops. This class of pesticide targets the neurological systems of insects, and appears to disorient bees, causing them to lose their way back to the hive, ultimately resulting in the sudden collapse of entire hives, a hallmark of CCD.
Naturalists also are becoming concerned that the widespread use of neonicotinoids is hurting birds, as a major report released this month by the American Bird Conservancy outlines. The report asserts that birds that feed on crops seeds treated by certain neonicotinoids can consume lethal doses, and that many birds are suffering reproductive damage caused by the accumulation of all variations of these pesticides in the food chain.
The coalition of groups suing the EPA wants the agency to suspend the registrations of these insecticides, which have been shown to be toxic to bees and a clear cause of their deaths. Specifically, they are asking the EPA to restrict the use of the neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The extensive use of these toxics, which are absorbed by plants, coincided with the onset of the CCD epidemic in the mid-2000’s.
"America's beekeepers cannot survive for long with the toxic environment EPA has supported. Bee-toxic pesticides in dozens of widely used products, on top of many other stresses our industry faces, are killing our bees and threatening our livelihoods," said plaintiff Steve Ellis, a Minnesota and California beekeeper.
"Our country depends on bees for crop pollination and honey production. It's time for EPA to recognize the value of bees to our food system and agricultural economy."
Many beekeepers are reporting annual losses of more than 50 percent this year, a situation that’s having a severe impact on the bee-dependent almond groves in California. The almond growers have been left with insufficient bees to pollinate their trees.
"Beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups have demonstrated time and time again over the last several years that EPA needs to protect bees. The agency has refused, so we've been compelled to sue," said Center for Food Safety attorney, Peter T. Jenkins. "EPA's unlawful actions should convince the Court to suspend the approvals for clothianidin and thiamethoxam products until those violations are resolved."
The case also challenges the EPA’s practice of issuing"conditional registrations" for pesticides, arguing that this effort by the agency to assist companies in getting pesticides on the market short-changes review of the pesticides. Clothianidin and thiamethoxam were both brought to market as conditional registrations.
"Pesticide manufacturers use conditional registrations to rush bee-toxic products to market, with little public oversight," said Paul Towers, a spokesperson for Pesticide Action Network (PAN), a plaintiff in the suit.
"As new independent research comes to light, the agency has been slow to re-evaluate pesticide products and its process, leaving bees exposed to an ever-growing load of hazardous pesticides."
Plaintiffs include four beekeepers, Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co. (MN, CA), Jim Doan of Doan Family Farms (NY), Tom Theobald of Niwot Honey Farm (CO) and Bill Rhodes of Bill Rhodes Honey (FL) as well as Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, Sierra Club, and the Center for Environmental Health.
Before filing suit, the coalition asked the EPA in March 2012 to suspend the use of clothianidin, but EPA has taken no action. Further, the agency has indicated it will not finish its formal “Registration Review” for clothianidin and thiamethoxam until 2018, according to the Center for Food Safety.