A federal court in San Francisco ruled Tuesday, May 10, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violated the Endangered Species Act by not adequately reviewing 59 different registrations on neonicotinoid-coated seeds between 2007 and 2012. The ruling was handed down by the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California.
Seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticides are used on more than 150 million acres of U.S. corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops.
Beekeepers, wildlife conservation groups, food safety and consumer advocates sued the EPA claiming the release of the coated seeds harmed bee populations.
Bayer Crop Science, Syngenta, Valent and other companies that sell neonicotinoid insecticides issued a joint statement on the court ruling.
“This case centered around plaintiffs’ arguments that EPA did not follow certain processes in the registration of certain products containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam — two important crop protection tools used by farmers,” the companies said.
“For most of those arguments the judge found that EPA followed the correct procedures. The judge’s order also upheld EPA’s decision that there was no imminent hazard to the environment from using clothianidin products. We will be reviewing the judge’s order and our options as the case moves forward into the remedy phase.”
Bayer sells clothianidin-based Poncho, Syngenta’s thiamethoxam-based product is Cruiser, and the imidacloprid-based Gaucho, is marketed by Bayer and Valent USA.
According to the court’s ruling, the case is being sent to Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in the District of Northern California for settlement talks.
In a news release on Tuesday, the Center for Food Safety said such a settlement could “lead to cancelling the 59 pesticide products and registrations, including many seed-coating insecticides approved for scores of different crop uses.”
The Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Health were all parties to the lawsuit.
“This is a vital victory,” said George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety legal director.
“Science shows these toxic pesticides harm bees, endangered species and the broader environment. More than 50 years ago, Rachel Carson warned us to avoid such toxic chemicals, and the court’s ruling may bring us one step closer to preventing another silent spring.”
Beekeepers and others plaintiffs filed a petition in with EPA, to review the products in question.
“Vast amounts of scientific literature show the hazards these chemicals pose are far worse than we knew five years ago and it was bad even then,” CFS attorney Peter Jenkins, said in a statement.
“The nation’s beekeepers continue to suffer unacceptable mortality of 40% annually and higher. Water contamination by these insecticides is virtually out of control. Wild pollinators and wetland-dependent birds are in danger. EPA must act to protect bees and the environment.”
The plaintiffs alleged that EPA failed to comply with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, in denying the plaintiffs’ request to the EPA to suspend the registration of products containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam without first providing notice.
According to FIFRA, pesticides cannot be distributed or sold unless they have been registered by the EPA.
Concerns about the role neonicotinoid-coated seeds play in pollinator health, prompted the state of Minnesota last year to begin considering restrictions to the products.
EPA released documents in January that show the growing use of neonicotinoid insecticides, http://bit.ly/…
The agency estimated that clothianidin is used on 42 million to 61 million acres of corn annually, or from 45% to 65% of all U.S. corn acres. EPA estimated that between 24 million and 42 million acres of corn are treated with thiamethoxam. That is 26% to 45% of all U.S. corn acres.
With soybeans, the EPA said 13 million to 21 million acres are treated with thiamethoxam. That represents 16% to 25% of all U.S. soybean acres. In addition, 2.1 million acres are treated with clothianidin each year, or 3% of all U.S. soybean acres.
The EPA did not report imidacloprid-treated soybean acres. The agency estimated, however, that 880,000 pounds of imidacloprid were applied to soybeans in 2014. That is nearly three times the amount of thiamethoxam applied to soybeans each year, which accounted for 13 million to 21 million acres.