(Beyond Pesticides, January 4, 2010) — A pesticide that could be dangerously toxic to America’s honey bees must be pulled from store shelves as a result of a suit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Xerces Society. In an order issued in December, a federal court in New York invalidated EPA’s approval of the pesticide spirotetramat (manufactured by Bayer CropScience under the trade names Movento and Ultor) and ordered the agency to reevaluate the chemical in compliance with the law. The court’s order goes into effect on January 15, 2010, and makes future sales of Movento illegal in the United States.
“This sends EPA and Bayer back to the drawing board to reconsider the potential harm to bees caused by this new pesticide,” said NRDC Senior Attorney Aaron Colangelo. “EPA admitted to approving the pesticide illegally, but argued that its violations of the law should have no consequences. The Court disagreed and ordered the pesticide to be taken off the market until it has been properly evaluated. Bayer should not be permitted to run what amounts to an uncontrolled experiment on bees across the country without full consideration of the consequences.”
In June 2008, EPA approved Movento for nationwide use on hundreds of different crops, including apples, pears, peaches, oranges, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, almonds, and spinach. The approval process went forward without the advance notice and opportunity for public comment that is required by federal law and EPA’s own regulations. In addition, EPA failed to evaluate fully the potential damage to the nation’s already beleaguered bee populations or conduct the required analysis of the pesticide’s economic, environmental, and social costs.
Beekeepers and scientists have expressed concern over Movento’s potential impact on beneficial insects such as honey bees. The pesticide impairs the insect’s ability to reproduce. EPA’s review of Bayer’s scientific studies found that trace residues of Movento brought back to the hive by adult bees could cause “significant mortality” and “massive perturbation” to young honeybees (larvae).
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops grown in America. USDA also claims that one out of every three mouthfuls of food in the typical American diet has a connection to bee pollination. Yet bee colonies in the United States have seen significant declines in recent years due to a combination of stressors, almost certainly including insecticide exposure.
“This case underscores the need for us to re-examine how we evaluate the impact of pesticides and other chemicals in the environment,” said Mr. Colangelo. “In approving Movento, EPA identified but ignored potentially serious harms to bees and other pollinators. We are in the midst of a pollinator crisis, with more than a third of our colonies disappearing in recent years. Given how important these creatures are to our food supply, we simply cannot look past these sorts of problems.”
View the court decision here.
Read Beyond Pesticides’ read factsheet: Pollinators and Pesticides: Escalating crisis demands action and Backyard Beekeeping: Providing pollinator habitat one yard at a time. See more information on threats to honey bees at NRDC.