(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2012) On March 21, Beyond Pesticides joined beekeepers and environmental groups, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network North America in filing an emergency legal petition that calls on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend registration of Bayer’s controversial bee-killing pesticide, clothianidin. Because Congress has the authority to exercise oversight over federal agencies like EPA, the organizations are now calling on the public to ask Congress to protect honey bees and wild pollinators from clothianidin and other pesticides known to be toxic to bees.
Bees and other pollinators are still dying off at catastrophic rates —commercial beekeepers lost an average of 36% of their hives last year, according to USDA. Honey bees pollinate one in every three bites of our food and, as indicator species, they serve as sentinels whom we ignore at our peril.
As the public debate over causes of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) —a syndrome in which bees seemingly abandon their hives— carries on in the media, more and more new science has shown that neonicotinoid pesticides are indeed a critical piece of the puzzle. Neonicotinoids like clothianidin may not be the sole cause of CCD, but they are making our bees sick, and at least one of them is on the market illegally. While we may not know the exact cause of CCD, EPA knows enough to act, and has the authority and responsibility to suspend clothianidin —yet for over a year the agency has failed to do so.
Take Action: We will continue to pressure EPA to take action on clothianidin, but in the meantime, join our petition urging Congress to step up!
Additionally, Beyond Pesticides’ 30th National Pesticide Forum, Healthy Communities: Green solutions for safe environments will feature the lawyer who drafted the legal petition to EPA, beekeepers, and unirversity researcher of groundbreaking research. Peter Jenkins, Center for Food Safety lawyer; David Hackenberg, beekeeper to first discover Colony Collapse Disorder; Christian Krupke, PhD, Purdue entomologist, who discovered EPA was severely underestimating honey bee exposure to pesticides; Robert Deschak, core member of the New York City Beekeepers Association who keeps hives on NYC rooftops; Ted and Becky Jones, owners of Jones’ Apiaries, and president and treasurer of the Connecticut Beekeepers’ Association, who will be bringing a demonstration hive to the conference. The conference will be held at Yale University on March 30-31, 2012. For more information, including registration, see www.beyondpesticides.org/forum
Petition to Congress
Dear Speaker Boehner, Leader Reid, Leader Pelosi and Leader McConnell:
We are writing to express our grave concern about the fate of bees and other insect pollinators. Honey bees are a vital part of our agricultural economy and ecosystem, and they are in serious peril. Colony collapse disorder, or CCD, is still a serious problem —each year since 2006, U.S. beekeepers have lost an average of 32% of their hives. At least one commercial beekeeper qualified for disaster relief from USDA, because he lost so many hives last year. The situation is dire and the EPA is simply not acting swiftly enough.
EPA is currently reviewing neonicotinoids, including clothianidin, in a process that is expected to last through 2018. With one-third of our bees dying off each year, this timeline is nowhere near fast enough.
Clothianidin, a pesticide that is known to be highly toxic to bees, has remained on the market for nine years despite the lack of a single scientifically valid field study showing that it can be used in a way that does not harm bees and other pollinators. By not requiring the registrant, Bayer, to satisfy the legal requirements of registration, the Agency is failing to follow its own rules.
Clothianidin was rushed to market in an abuse of “conditional registration.” Conditional registrations account for two-thirds of current pesticide product registrations. We ask you to close this gaping loophole in our pesticide law.
EPA is supposed to license (“register”) pesticides only if they meet standards for protection of environment and human health. But pesticide law allows EPA to waive these requirements and grant a “conditional” registration when health and safety data are lacking in the case of a new pesticide, allowing companies to sell the pesticide before EPA gets safety data. The company is supposed to submit valid data by the end of the conditional registration period. In the case of clothianidin, Bayer never did so.
Independent, peer-reviewed science shows that clothianidin —alone and in combination with pathogens and other pesticides— is likely a driving factor in recent pollinator declines. In the last few years, a substantial body of evidence has accumulated in the peer-reviewed scientific literature confirming that the use of clothianidin as a seed treatment on corn in particular presents substantial risks to honey bees flying over freshly sown fields, and foraging on the pollen of corn or of nearby plants that may have been dusted with, or have systemically taken up, this long-lasting pesticide. In the last year alone, three studies have confirmed that micro-doses of neonicotinoids act synergistically with pathogens such as Nosema to dramatically undermine immunity and increase mortality.
EPA’s failure to act on a meaningful timeline is what has compelled us to ask you to exercise your oversight authority as members of Congress. As citizens, we feel that we have exhausted all other measures. We have written letters, made phone calls and submitted petitions. We are keeping bees and planting pesticide-free havens to provide safe forage. We will continue to do our part, but we need your support to make the system work.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.