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We Speak for the Bees: Activists Sue EPA Over Bee Deaths

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A coalition of beekeepers and environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides that have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees. The group, represented by lawyers from the Center for Food Safety, seeks suspension of the registrations of these insecticides, including clothianidin and thiamethoxam, two chemicals produced by Syngenta and Bayer CropScience.

“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, in a press release. “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.”

According to The New York Times, the companies that produce the pesticides claim that there is not enough scientific data to justify broad restrictions on the chemicals or link them to bee deaths. The Center for Food Safety, however, claims that independent scientists have identified the chemicals as being harmful to bees, as well as troubling gaps in the data available as to how the chemicals interact with the broader ecosystem.

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“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.”

In March 2012, CFS and a coalition of prominent beekeepers, along with Pesticide Action Network and Beyond Pesticides filed an Emergency Petition with the EPA asking the agency to suspend the use of clothianidin. When the EPA refused and indicated that it would not complete the Registration Review for clothianidin and other chemicals in the same family until 2018, the group reacted by filing the lawsuit, which also challenges the so-called "conditional registration" of these chemicals and inadequacies of existing pesticide labels.

Photo Credit: SkipSteuart via Compfightcc

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