Bees are still dying. Urge Congress to step up.

As the public debate over causes behind Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) a syndrome in which bees seemingly abandon their hives carries on in the media, more and more new science has shown that neonicotinoid pesticides are indeed a critical piece of the puzzle. Although they are not the cause, these and other pesticides are acting in concert to make very bees sick:

  • » Three separate studies in the last six months have confirmed that sublethal doses of pesticides act synergistically with a common gut fungus, Nosema, to dramatically increase mortality.
  • » Another three studies confirm that bees are exposed to acutely toxic levels of clothianidin in the field through the poisonous dust, or planter exhaust, as treated corn seeds go into the ground.

EPA knows enough to act. They have the authority and responsibility to suspend Bayer’s bee-toxic pesticide, clothianidin  yet for over a year the Agency has failed to do soNeonicotinoids like clothianidin are not the sole cause of CCD, but they are a key part of the problem, and at least one of them is on the market illegally.

Congress has the authority to exercise oversight over federal agencies like EPA. They can call a hearing, and they alone can fix a broken pesticide law that leaves EPA hamstrung and captive to industry players like Bayer. Help them understand what’s at stake.

Dear Speaker Boehner, Leader Reid, Leader Pelosi and Leader McConnell:

We are writing to express our grave concern about the fate of bees and other insect pollinators. Honey bees are a vital part of our agricultural economy and ecosystem, and they are in peril. Colony collapse disorder, or CCD, is still a serious problem — each year since 2006, U.S. beekeepers have lost an average of 32% of their hives. At least one commercial beekeeper qualified for disaster relief from USDA, because he lost so many hives last year. The situation is dire, and EPA is simply not acting swiftly enough.

EPA is currently reviewing neonicotinoids, including clothianidin, in a process that is expected to last through 2018. With one-third of our bees dying off each year, this timeline is nowhere near fast enough.

Clothianidin, a pesticide that is known to be highly toxic to bees, has remained on the market for nine years despite the lack of a single scientifically valid field study showing that it can be used in a way that does not harm bees and other pollinators. By not requiring the registrant, Bayer, to satisfy the legal requirements of registration, the Agency is failing to follow its own rules.

Clothianidin was rushed to market in an abuse of “conditional registration.” Conditional registrations account for two-thirds of current pesticide product registrations. We ask you to close this gaping loophole in our pesticide law.

EPA is supposed to license ("register") pesticides only if they meet standards for protection of the environment and human health. But pesticide law allows EPA to waive these requirements and grant a "conditional" registration when health and safety data are lacking in the case of a new pesticide, allowing companies to sell the pesticide before EPA gets safety data. The company is supposed to submit valid data by the end of the conditional registration period. In the case of clothianidin, Bayer never did so.

Independent, peer-reviewed science shows that clothianidin — alone and in combination with pathogens and other pesticides — is likely a driving factor in recent pollinator declines. In the last few years, a substantial body of evidence has accumulated in the peer-reviewed scientific literature confirming that the use of clothianidin as a seed treatment on corn in particular presents substantial risks to honey bees flying over freshly sown fields, and foraging on the pollen of corn or of nearby plants that may have been dusted with, or have systemically taken up, this long-lasting pesticide. In the last year alone, three studies have confirmed that micro-doses of neonicotinoids act synergistically with pathogens such as Nosema to dramatically undermine immunity and increase mortality.

EPA’s failure to act on a meaningful timeline is what has compelled us to ask you to exercise your oversight authority as members of Congress. As citizens, we feel that we have exhausted all other measures. We have written letters, made phone calls and submitted petitions. We are keeping bees and planting pesticide-free havens to provide safe forage. We will continue to do our part, but we need your support to make the system work.
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