A group of California beekeepers and environmental groups filed suit last week to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restrict insecticides they say has a detrimental effect on honeybees.
The groups filed their lawsuit against the EPA in the Northern District Court of California, demanding that the regulatory agency suspend the use of pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The pesticides, which are part of a class of systemic insecticides known as neonicotinoids, are absorbed by plants and transported throughout a plant’s vascular tissue, making the plant potentially toxic to insects, the groups said. Neonicotinoids are chemically related to nicotine, the harmful ingredient in tobacco products.
“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,” Peter Jenkins, a lawyer for the Center for Food Safety who is representing the coalition of plaintiffs told NBC News.
The group claims to have obtained records of “legal violations” by EPA officials regarding its approval of clothianidin and thiamethoxam.
Syngenta and Bayer are the leading manufacturers of the neonicotinoid variety of insecticides and they claim there is no proof they are detrimental to bee health. But neonicotinoids are used on more than 100 million acres of corn, wheat, soy and cotton annually; and California beekeepers say their populations have been so decimated that many of the State’s almond growers won’t have enough bees to effectively pollinate their trees this year.
The American Bird Conservancy recently published a review of 200 studies on neonicotinoids that included industry research obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The study calls for the banning of the insecticide based on its toxicity to birds, aquatic invertebrates and other wildlife.
Bees are essential pollinators of plants used for food and — along with butterflies, bats, beetles and some small mammals — are key components of the food system. Bee populations in China have been so decimated by the use of insecticides that farmers employ people to pollinate their almond trees.