Time for Emergency Action on Pesticide in Order to Protect Bees

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Bees' role as pollinators is vital to our food supply.

The following article is posted with permission from the Pesticide Action Network.

A coalition of environmental groups and beekeepers submitted more than 250,000 petitions to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today, urging immediate suspension of a pesticide linked to colony collapse disorder (CCD) in bees. The call comes three months after the legal petition was filed, and as beekeepers report significant bee kills across the United States, linked to neonicotinoid pesticides.

“The clock is ticking and the weight of evidence is against pesticides,” said Heather Pilatic, PhD, author of 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.”

This spring and summer, beekeepers from New York to Ohio and Minnesota are reporting extraordinarily large bee die-offs, due, in part, to neonicotinoid pesticide exposure. The die-offs are similar to what beekeepers have reported in the past few weeks in Canada, where officials found significant amounts of neonicotinoids in dead bees.

“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.”

In late March, a coalition of beekeepers and environmental organizations filed a legal petition with EPA urging the agency to take action on the neonicotinoid clothianidin, citing the agency’s ability to act quickly when a pesticide poses “imminent harm” under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports on average that beekeepers have lost more than 30 percent of their honey bee colonies each year since 2006 — some many more times that number.

Beekeepers and environmental groups cite EPA’s current timeline for making a decision on the safety of neonicotinoids for honey bees as far too slow. The Agency expects to complete its evaluation in 2018, and any implementation plans would take years beyond that to be set into motion.

Scientific evidence showing harmful impacts of neonicotinoid products on bees continues to mount as regulators are slow to respond. The report Pesticides and Honey Bees: State of the Science issued in May by Pesticide Action Network documents evidence that pesticides are a key factor in honey bee population declines, along with pathogens and poor nutrition. Studies in the U.S. and in Europe have shown that small amounts of neonicotinoids — both alone and in combination with other pesticides — can cause impaired communication, disorientation, decreased longevity, suppressed immunity and disruption of brood cycles in honeybees.

“One-third of our population of bees dying off every year for the last six years constitutes an emergency,” said Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager for CREDO Action. “More than 225,000 CREDO activists are speaking out about this issue because they have serious concerns about the massive bee die offs. The EPA can’t ignore this epidemic any longer and must take immediate action now.”

The petitions submitted were collected by Center for Food Safety, CREDO Action and Pesticide Action Network over the past week, and call on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to take emergency action and suspend the use of clothianidin, a widely used pesticide manufactured by Bayer.

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