WASHINGTON, June 29, 2012 - Environmental groups are ratcheting up the pressure on EPA to move on a legal petition they filed in March urging the immediate suspension of a pesticide the groups say is linked to colony collapse disorder (CCD).
The Center for Food Safety, CREDO Action and Pesticide Action Network said that over the past week they have collected more than 250,000 petitions in support of the March filing, all calling on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to take emergency action and suspend the use of clothianidin, a widely used pesticide manufactured Bayer.
The March filing asserted that the agency had the legal authority under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act to act quickly when a pesticide poses “imminent harm,” a charge they level a neonicotinoids.
“The clock is ticking and the weight of evidence is against pesticides,” said Heather Pilatic, a research scientist, author of a study, "Pesticides and Honey Bees: State of the Science," and communications director at Pesticide Action Network. “EPA should follow the law, the science, and take immediate steps to protect bees and beekeepers from the growing threat of neonicotinoids.”
However, as recently as March, Jay Evans, a USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) research entomologist, said that while CCD now constitutes approximately 10% of hive failures and total colony die-offs remained at 30% each winter for the past five or six years, exact causes are yet to be found.
The point has been underscored by Keith Delaplane, the national director of the $4.1 million Managed Pollinator Coordinated Agriculture Project funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Delaplane, who's work involves 17 cooperators and institutions from coast to coast, all in a consortium of scientists and educators working to reverse the decline in honey bees, says he believes there is no one single cause for the drastic drop-off in bee populations.
But recent research into the Varroa mite, a parasite known to infest bees, is at the top of his list of potential reasons for the decline. And Delaplane is not alone. Three international symposia on this topic have been called in the last 16 months to address the mite, which spreads and activates viruses, compromising the honey bee immune system. The mite is native to Asia, but has been in the United States for well more than 20 years.
The petitioners, however, are not dissuaded from singling out neonicotinoids as the principal cause of the decline and believing that EPA should act now, contending the agency's timeline for reviewing the pesticides and their relationship to bees is too slow. EPA expects to complete its evaluation in 2018, and the groups say any implementation plans would take years beyond that to be set into motion.
“EPA has to make good on its statutory responsibility to protect livelihoods and the environment from imminent harm,” said Peter Jenkins, attorney at the Center for Food Safety and author of the legal petition filed in late March. “Bee kills profoundly affect our economy and our food system, and deserve swift action by the agency. EPA officials must respond to our legal petition immediately.”
Bayer CropScience describes scientific claims that the pesticides it produces are responsible for massive honeybee deaths as “spectacularly incorrect.” Bayer has said conclusions were based on inordinate amounts of pesticides used in studies at levels far above real-world exposure.
CropLife America, the trade group representing crop protection firms, has long maintained that the studies blaming pesticides do not accurately reflect natural field environments, noting that EPA tests do not reflect the same results. The group also says EPA requires scientific pollinator toxicity studies, which must replicate outdoor use patterns when crops may be in bloom and attract bees, as part of the data package necessary to register a pesticide.
“Only after rigorous review of these studies and others, will EPA approve a pesticide for use," CropLife says.
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