The Sierra Club has called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately suspend the registration of the insecticide clothianidin, based on new scientific evidence of extensive contamination in bees and soil.
In January this year scientists at Purdue University documented major adverse impacts from clothianidin, used as a seed treatment in corn, on honey bee health. The results showed clothianidin present in foraging areas long after treated seed has been planted.
The study raises questions about the long term survival of this major pollinator.
"This research should nail the coffin lid shut on clothianidin", says Laurel Hopwood, Sierra Club's Chairwoman of the Genetic Engineering Action Team. "Despite numerous attempts by the beekeeping industry and conservation organizations to persuade the EPA to ban clothianidin, the EPA has failed to protect the food supply for the American people."
Tom Theobald, a founding member of the Boulder County Beekeeper's Association explains, "In 2010, I got hold of an EPA document revealing that the agency has been allowing the widespread use of this bee-toxic pesticide, against evidence that it's highly toxic to bees. Clothianidin has failed to meet the requirements for registration. It's continued use is in violation of the law."
Upon learning of the EPA's failures, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Beekeeping Federation and The American Honey Producer's Association urged the agency in a 12/8/2010 letter to cancel the registration of this pesticide. Yet despite the fact that clothianidin had failed a critical life cycle study which was required for registration, the agency responded in a 2/18/2011 letter stating "At this time, we are not aware of any data that reasonably demonstrates that bee colonies are subject to elevated losses due to chronic exposure to this pesticide. EPA does not intend at this time to initiate suspension or cancellation actions against the registered uses of clothianidin. If scientific information shows a particular pesticide is posing unreasonable risk to pollinators, we stand ready to take the necessary regulatory action."
Neil Carman, PhD, scientific advisor to Sierra Club, is troubled by EPA's complacency. "A huge shoe has dropped. U.S. researchers have documented major adverse impacts from clothianidin seed treatments in corn on honey bee health." Carman further explains "Because of the vital role played by honey bees in crop pollination, honey bee demise threatens the production of crops that produce one-third of American diets, including nearly 100 fruits and vegetables. The value of crops pollinated by bees exceeds $15 billion in the U.S. alone."
Hopwood exclaims, "The time is now for EPA to quit dodging the illusion of oversight and instead, cancel this bee- killing pesticide. If we travel too far down our current path, we could create conditions in our food system much like those that brought down the financial system."