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Court Ruling Backs Bees Against EPA

A federal court has blocked the use of an insecticide that beekeepers said was killing their honeybee colonies. Credit Greg Stotelmyer.
A federal court has blocked the use of an insecticide that beekeepers said was killing their honeybee colonies. Credit Greg Stotelmyer.
September 11, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO - Beekeepers, their bees and consumers scored a win on Thursday after a federal court overturned the Environmental Protection Agency's approval of sulfoxaflor - an insecticide that pollinators say is bad for their honeybee colonies.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the use of the Dow Chemical insecticide, ruling that the EPA failed to do reliable studies on the pesticide's impact.

"EPA did not follow through with its own requirement of getting scientific-based evidence to prove that the pesticide was not going to adversely impact pollinators," said Michele Colopy, program director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, one of the groups that filed the suit.

There is a waiting period before the decision is final, and Dow could ask for a rehearing. But Earthjustice, which represented beekeepers and their trade groups in court, said scientists are pointing to pesticides as the cause of widespread bee colony collapse.

Colopy said a key finding by the appeals court was that sulfoxaflor is a subclass of neonicotinoids, which are thought to be a factor in honeybee declines. With several "neonics" on the market, she said, the pollinator ecosystem needs careful consideration when any pesticide is approved or used.

"It is not looking at the entire organism of a hive," she said. "It's not about just the adult forager bee. Bee colonies are an organism, and if one aspect of the workforce gets damaged, it damages the entire organism of the colony."

Colopy noted that one in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination. Kentucky has approximately 20,000 bee hives. Cash receipts for honey totaled $811,000 in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

The National Honeybee Advisory Board, American Honey Producers Association, American Beekeeping Federation and several individual beekeepers filed the suit, represented by Earthjustice. The full court opinion is online at earthjustice.org.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY