How much more devestation will we encounter.
Science shows broad harms from widely-used neonicotinoid seed coating.
With the Environmental Protection Agency in shambles, non profit organizations are leading the fight against pesticide laden seed coating that is killing bees and other creatures, which now even includes aquatic life.
Center for Food Safety, on behalf of beekeepers, farmers and sustainable agriculture, and conservation groups, filed a formal legal petition requesting reforms in the EPA regulation of harmful neonicotinoid insecticide seed coating, which is used on dozens of crops. Numerous studies have shown devastating impacts specifically to pollinators from the broad use of the seed coating.
With endorsement by all three of the national beekeeper associations, the American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association, and the Pollinator Stewardship Council, the petition represents the concerns of the overwhelming majority of America’s managers of honey bees, which are essential to our food supply.
“As a beekeeper for over 50 years, I have lost more colonies of honey bees in the last 10 years from the effects of planting neonic seed coating than all others causes over the first 40 plus years of my beekeeping operation,” says beekeeper David Hackenberg. “This not only affects my honey bees, but as a farmer it also affects my land and the health of my soil. It is time for EPA to accept the responsibility to protect not only our honey bees and other pollinators, but also our soil and our environment.”
Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides known to have acute and chronic effects on honey bees and other pollinator species and are considered a major factor in overall bee population declines and poor health. Up to 95 percent of the applied seed coating ends up in the surrounding air (through dust off), soil, and water rather, than in the crop for which it was intended, leading to extensive contamination.
The cost-effectiveness of neonicotinoid seed coatings has been challenged in recent years, with numerous studies indicating that they are drastically overused – making EPA’s disregard of their risks all the more harmful. The seeds lack enforceable labels or adequate use directions from EPA. As they are not considered to be “pesticides,” there is no requirement for official investigations of the bee kills that clearly can result from the seeds. And beekeepers who suffer damage to their hives have virtually no recourse. Along with honey bees, wild bees and other beneficial insects are in jeopardy. Overuse of the seed coating insecticides threatens sustainable agriculture going forward.
These pesticides are being likened to DDT, in the wake of the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
“EPA’s actions surrounding neonicotinoid seed coatings have led to intensifying and destructive consequences,” says Peter Jenkins, attorney with Center for Food Safety. “These include acute honey bee kills, as well as chronic effects to numerous species, nationwide water and soil contamination, and other environmental and economic harms,” says Jenkins. “With this petition, we are calling on Scott Pruitt to direct the EPA to put the health of pollinators, the environment and our food supply above corporate interests by regulating these dangerous chemicals.”
EPA also has allowed some other similar types of systemic insecticides onto the market and appears poised to approve additional seed coatings in the future.
“After experiencing a large loss of bees in recent years due to corn planting ‘dust off,’ I believe that it is of critical importance that these defective products not be used as a prophylactic seed coating,” says Bret Adee, co-owner of Adee Honey Farms, the largest commercial beekeeping operation in the country.
Incidentally, in my film Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Ellen Page, Adee did not yet believe that systemics were killing his bees.
“A single seed coated with a neonicotinoid insecticide is enough to kill a songbird. There is no justification for EPA to exempt these pesticide delivery devices from regulation. American Bird Conservancy urges the agency to evaluate the risks to birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife,” says Cynthia Palmer, director of pesticides science and regulation at American Bird Conservancy.
The Petitioners are beekeepers Bret Adee, American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association, Jeff Anderson, David Hackenberg, and Pollinator Stewardship Council, farmers Lucas Criswell and Gail Fuller, and public interest and conservation groups American Bird Conservancy, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network of North America.