OAKLAND, Calif.- A local Minnesota beekeeper, Steve Ellis, produced a significant win against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in relation to insecticide usage.
The case stemmed from the failure of the EPA in the regular review of a fairly new category of pesticide, neonicotinoid insecticides, to take into account the potential impact that the chemical would have on local insects, including honeybees. Failure by the EPA to effectively explore, via testing, the impact that chemicals containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam have on local insect populations, was the issue in question during the trial. The EPA’s failure to conduct these tests put it in direct violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
In an interview with the Star Tribune, Ellis stated that, “The EPA pretty much admitted that it had failed to do that in this case, so it was pretty hard for the judge to rule in their favor.”
Recent findings by the USDA indicate that the neonicotinoid insecticide category may lead to what is called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD is a phenomenon where worker bees will simply leave the queen bee and the colony fully stocked with food, eventually leading to all the worker bees dying (due to the lack of support from the colonies infrastructure) and the death of the colony due to the lack of worker bees to sustain it. The findings indicate that this phenomenon could be potentially devastating for crops which rely on honey bees for pollination.
Furthermore, the plaintiffs alleged the EPA had failed to register these chemicals properly within the Federal Register. Specific complaints were how “the EPA registered seven products containing clothianidin without first providing in the Federal Register notice of the applications to register such products, and that, when the EPA approved said applications, it approved “new uses” for clothianidin, e.g., for use on lawns.” This directly figured into Ellis’s complaint which alleged that his beekeeping business had been adversely affected economically by the use of the chemicals. According to Ellis, his bees foraged on lawns which had not been marked as having the chemical present. Furthermore, Ellis claims the EPA made public notice of the application and allowed public comment of the new applications of the products prior to registering the chemicals that economic loss could have been avoided, and that the EPA is indeed at fault for this economic loss.
The nature of the case against the EPA was one that focused more on procedure of the EPA rather than the banning of the chemicals in all their applications. It brings specifically into question the effectiveness of the EPA when it comes to regulation of local environmental issues, specifically those that would include public comment from groups with local economic interest.
However, the category of pesticides in question play a significant part in US agriculture, being used in over 150 million acres of crops. This includes over sixty five percent of US corn crops, and a quarter of the soybean crops. Furthermore, neonicotinoid insecticides are a product of Syngenta, under the product name Cruiser.
This court case indicates that while the use of the insecticides may be bad for the honey bees and other pollinators, and in the long run harm the crops they are used on, failure to use these insecticides would also be potentially damaging to agricultural production.