22nd March 2012
MEDIA RELEASE CONTACT:
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network
John Kepner, Beyond Pesticides
202-543-5450 x20, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Jenkins, Center for Food Safety
Beekeepers & Environmental Groups Petition to the American EPA:
Continued approval of Clothianidin is “Irresponsible” & “Damaging”
Over 1 million citizens urge EPA to suspend use of pesticide that kills bees; and to fix the broken regulatory system
Washington, DC —Today, commercial beekeepers and environmental organizations filed an urgent Legal Petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding the suspension and further use of a pesticide, which the agency's own scientists originally assessed as "highly toxic to honey bees" back in 2003. The Petition demands new safeguards, to prevent similarly dangerous pesticides being approved by the agency in the future. The legal petition is supported by over one million citizen-petitions, collected from people across the country, demanding the ban of clothianidin in particular – because of its lethal impact on honey bees.
“EPA has an obligation to protect honeybees and pollinating insects from the threat of pesticides,” said Jeff Anderson of California Minnesota Honey Farms, a co-petitioner. “The Agency has failed to adequately regulate pesticides which are harmful to pollinators, despite scientific and on-the-ground evidence presented by academics and beekeepers.”
Over two dozen beekeepers and beekeeper organizations, from California and Minnesota to Kansas and New York, filed the legal petition with the EPA today. Many of these family-owned beekeeping businesses are migratory; they travel across the country from state-to-state, during different months of the year, providing pollination to farmers and to harvest honey and wax. These bee-farmers are concerned about the continued impact of neonicotinoids on their bees and their businesses which are already in jeopardy. Thousands of bee farmers have already lbeen bankrupted by the death of their bees in the last six years.
“The future of beekeeping faces numerous threats, including those from clothianidin, and we need to take steps to protect pollinators and the livelihood of beekeepers,” said Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co and a co-petitioner.
Nine years ago, the EPA's own scientists demanded a field-study on the potential harmful effects of clothianidin to honeybees and to non-target insects - because laboratory evidence clearly showed that the pesticide was 'highly toxic' to honeybees. In the years since EPA first required this study, a substantial body of scientific evidence has confirmed that the use of clothianidin, an environmentally persistent poison, presents substantial risks to honey bees and other insects.
“EPA ignored its own science division's requirements and failed to study the impacts of clothianidin on honey bees,” said Peter Jenkins, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety and co-petitioner. “The international body of scientific evidence against the chemical continues to grow, yet the agency has refused to take any action.”
The legal petition asserts that EPA failed to follow its own regulations: EPA granted a 'conditional', or temporary, registration to clothianidin in 2003 , without obtaining a crucially-required field study, to prove that the pesticide would have no “unreasonable adverse effects” on bees and pollinators. Conditional registration was only granted on the condition that such an acceptable field study would be submitted later; but this crucial requirement was never met.
EPA still permits the use of clothianidin, nine years after admitting that it had insufficient legal basis to license its use in the first place. In addition, the product labels, which advise farmers about the application of pesticides containing clothianidin, are inadequate to prevent excessive damage to non-target organisms; this is a second violation of the requirements for legal application of a pesticide and further justifies the removal of all such mislabeled pesticides from the market.
Over 1.25 million people, including thousands of hobby-beekeepers, submitted comments in partnership with the organizations Avaaz, Change.org, Credo, Pesticide Action Network, Beyond Pesticides and Neals Yard Remedies/Care2.com, demanding that the EPA take action on clothianidin.
“EPA should move swiftly to close the loophole and revoke the conditional registration of clothianidin,” said Heather Pilatic, co-director of Pesticide Action Network and a co-petitioner. “Bees and beekeepers cannot afford to suffer another nine years of inaction.”
Petitioners point to the Agency’s repeated failure to assess potentially harmful products and take them off the market. EPA is currently conducting a review of clothianidin’s registration, which it aims to complete in 2018; by that time Clothianidin will have been on the market for 15 years - without ever satisfying the legally required field studies or the legal requirements for registration.
Beekeepers estimate the economic value of their operations at $50 billion, based on retail value of food and crops pollinated by bees. Bees pollinate many high-value crops, including: pumpkins, cherries, cranberries, almonds, apples, watermelons, and blueberries. Any further collapse of bee populations, or any decline in the health and productivity of bees, could have a devastating impact on: agriculture, the food system and rural economies. According to a recent United Nations report on the global decline of pollinator populations, "honeybees are the most economically important pollinators in the world".
Beekeepers have survived the economic recession only to find their businesses are still threatened. Recent, catastrophic declines in honey bee populations, termed “Colony Collapse Disorder,” have been linked to a wide variety of factors, including: parasites, habitat loss and pesticides like clothianidin. Over 4 million bee colonies have died in America since 2006 and the figure is close to 10 million bee colonies worldwide - overwhelmingly in countries where clothianidin and other neonicotinoid pesticides are widely used.
“Independent research links the decline of pollinators, and especially the mass-deaths of honey bees, to a wide range of problems with industrial agriculture, especially pesticides,” said John Kepner, program director at Beyond Pesticides and a co-petitioner.
Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides in which the insecticide is first applied as a seed-coating at planting; the poison is taken up inside the growing plant, perfusing the entire structure of leaves, stem, flower and fruit; it is also expressed in the pollen and nectar. Bees are poisoned as they harvest the pollen and nectar to take back to the hive . Recent research in the journal PLoS ONE underscores the threat of these pesticides through a previously undocumented exposure-route: seed-planter exhaust – this is the mixture of waste-talc-dust and pesticide which is accidentally expelled into the air as automated planters place neonicotinoid-treated seeds into the ground.
As a result of the petition, EPA may choose to suspend the use of clothianidin, or open a public comment process to evaluate the concerns voiced by beekeepers and environmental organizations.
The text of the legal petition is available here.