CATCH THE BUZZ – Court ignores risks of neonic seed coatings, leadership left to states

San Francisco, CA – Earlier this month a federal court determined that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not required to evaluate and regulate seeds coated with pesticides linked to bee declines.

At issue are over 150 million acres of crops — particularly corn and soybeans and primarily in the Midwest — that are planted with neonicotinoid (“neonic”) insecticide seed coatings. Beyond exposure to toxic airborne dust at the time of planting with these seeds, bees are also vulnerable to the insecticides that persist throughout crops and in the soil and water many months later. Neonics, including products manufactured by Bayer and Syngenta, not only kill bees outright but are also linked to problems with reproduction, navigation and communication in the pollinators. And according to EPA, in most cases the coatings don’t even have much benefit in preventing pest problems.

The case challenging the lack of seed coating oversight was brought forward by the Center for Food Safety on behalf of Pesticide Action Network (PAN), along with concerned farmers and beekeepers.

In his conclusion, District Court Judge William Haskell Alsup stated: The Court is most sympathetic to the plight of our bee population and beekeepers. Perhaps the EPA should have done more to protect them, but such policy decisions are for the agency to make.

Lex Horan, midwest organizer with PAN released the following statement:

“States will need to fill the void created by EPA’s lack of leadership. EPA has failed to address repeated concerns about the issues of pesticide seed coatings and the threats to bees, beekeepers and our food system. As EPA shirks its responsibility, states can do their part to stem pollinator decline by following Minnesota’s lead: implementing science-based plans created through a transparent public process to protect bees by reducing neonicotinoid use.”

Gail Fuller, a Kansas grain farmer and a plaintiff in the case on the ruling:

“This decision does nothing to alter my resolve. My local beekeeping group has spent the last few meetings doing nothing but trying to figure out how to keep their hives alive. Harvest was poor, and losses are mounting. EPA and the states must address the issue of pesticide seed coatings rather than hide their head in the sand.”