EPA sued over bees

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Beekeepers are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its approval of a chemical they say kills honey producers.

The pesticide sulfoxaflor is “highly toxic” to bees and other insects, the groups say, and could be contributing to broader declines of bee populations around the world.

“This case is really quite simple: bees are getting wiped out, and yet the EPA rubber stamped another bee-killing pesticide,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie in a statement on Friday. “EPA failed the beekeeping industry and all of us who rely on a sustainable food supply by refusing to consider threats to pollinators from this new pesticide.”

Bees are necessary to pollinate a range of agricultural crops, and benefit as much as one-third of all food and beverages.

Since 2006, scientists have worried about a sharp decline in bee populations, known as colony collapse disorder, which some have blamed on pesticides.

The Pollinator Stewardship Council, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, American Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation and individual beekeepers are suing the EPA to get it to withdraw its approval of the Dow Chemical pesticide. The groups are being represented by EarthJustice.

They say that the agency ignored concerns about Dow’s field tests and needs to issue stronger labeling requirements to limit the hazard the substance poses to bees.

Sulfoxaflor is in a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoid. This month, a European Union ban of three different neonicotinoids went into effect, which policy makers there said was necessary to protect bees. The suspension will last for two years.

The EPA has declined to take similar steps to restrict the sales of the pesticides.

In August, however, the agency released new labels for pesticides containing neonicotinoids warning that they can “kill bees and other insect pollinators.”