WASHINGTON, March 22, 2013 – Environmental and consumer groups filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week in opposition to the agency’s policies regarding a particular class of commonly used chemicals, which the groups claim endanger honey bee populations.

The suit challenges EPA’s handling of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys for the Center for Food Safety, seek suspension of the registrations of the crop chemicals.

“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.

In March 2012, the Center for Food Safety filed an Emergency Petition with the EPA asking the agency to suspend the use of clothianidin.

Plaintiffs include Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, Sierra Club, and the Center for Environmental Health as well as four beekeepers, Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co. (Minn., Calif.), Jim Doan of Doan Family Farms (N.Y.), Tom Theobald of Niwot Honey Farm (Colo.) and Bill Rhodes of Bill Rhodes Honey (Fla.).

The plaintiffs claim neonicotinoids have been “repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, clear causes of major bee kills and significant contributors to the devastating ongoing mortality of bees known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).”

The crop protection industry points out that EPA identifies several factors instead of a single cause as contributors to declining honey bee health, including parasitic varroa mites, various types of diseases and varying beekeeping practices.

“Honey bees and other pollinators facilitate the production of many of the valuable crops grown in the U.S.,” said Ray McAllister, CropLife America’s senior director of regulatory affairs. “The crop protection industry recognizes their importance and remains actively involved in efforts to study and improve pollinator health.”

He said CropLife America “fully supports and trusts the rigor of EPA’s review process for crop protection products, including neonicotinoids.”

“This class of product represents an important component of modern agriculture that helps farmers protect their crops against pests with increasing precision and reduced potential environmental exposure,” McAllistar said.

The beekeepers and environmental groups involved in the case specifically oppose clothianidin and thiamethoxam. According to the Center for Food Safety, “Clothianidin and thiamethoxam first came into heavy use in the mid-2000s, at the same time beekeepers started observing widespread cases of colony losses, leaving beekeepers unable to recoup their losses.”

Among their requests, the Center for Food Safety attorneys ask the court to order EPA to immediately suspend the registration of clothianidin and thiamethoxam, direct EPA to change the labels on existing products, and prevent EPA from approving any pending approvals of the neonicotinoids. 


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