Natural Resources Defense Council
Press Release, December 29, 2009
Big Win for Bees: Judge Pulls Pesticide
Bee toxic Movento pulled from market for proper evaluation
NEW YORK – A pesticide that could be dangerously toxic to Americas honey bees must be pulled from store shelves as a result of a suit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Xerces Society. In an order issued last week, a federal court in New York invalidated EPAs approval of the pesticide spirotetramat (manufactured by Bayer CropScience under the trade names Movento and Ultor) and ordered the agency to reevaluate the chemical in compliance with the law. The courts order goes into effect on January 15, 2010, and makes future sales of Movento illegal in the United States .
“This sends EPA and Bayer back to the drawing board to reconsider the potential harm to bees caused by this new pesticide, said NRDC Senior Attorney Aaron Colangelo. “EPA admitted to approving the pesticide illegally, but argued that its violations of the law should have no consequences. The Court disagreed and ordered the pesticide to be taken off the market until it has been properly evaluated. Bayer should not be permitted to run what amounts to an uncontrolled experiment on bees across the country without full consideration of the consequences.
In June 2008, EPA approved Movento for nationwide use on hundreds of different crops, including apples, pears, peaches, oranges, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, almonds, and spinach. The approval process went forward without the advance notice and opportunity for public comment that is required by federal law and EPAs own regulations. In addition, EPA failed to evaluate fully the potential damage to the nations already beleaguered bee populations or conduct the required analysis of the pesticides economic, environmental, and social costs.
Beekeepers and scientists have expressed concern over Moventos potential impact on beneficial insects such as honey bees. The pesticide impairs the insects ability to reproduce. EPAs review of Bayers scientific studies found that trace residues of Movento brought back to the hive by adult bees could cause “significant mortality and “massive perturbation to young honeybees (larvae).
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops grown in America . USDA also claims that one out of every three mouthfuls of food in the typical American diet has a connection to bee pollination. Yet bee colonies in the United States have seen significant declines in recent years due to a combination of stressors, almost certainly including insecticide exposure.
“This case underscores the need for us to re-examine how we evaluate the impact of pesticides and other chemicals in the environment, said Colangelo. “In approving Movento, EPA identified but ignored potentially serious harms to bees and other pollinators. We are in the midst of a pollinator crisis, with more than a third of our colonies disappearing in recent years. Given how important these creatures are to our food supply, we simply cannot look past these sorts of problems.
The court decision is available at http://docs.nrdc.org/wildlife/wil_09122901.asp
More information on threats to honey bees at www.BeeSafe.org
Contact: Josh Mogerman at 312-651-7909
see also Bee devastation: Campaign for total ban of neonicotinoid pesticides
Mar 13, 2010, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Judges uphold ban on Bayer pesticide
A federal appeals court refused to delay a ban on the sale of a pesticide that some environmental groups claim is killing honeybees.
The decision prevents Bayer CropScience, from selling its pesticide, Spirotetramat, while the company appeals a lower court ruling that halted sales.
"Bayer has demonstrated neither that it will suffer irreparable injury absent a stay, nor that it has a substantial possibility of success on the merits of its appeal," U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood and U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph McLaughlin said in the ruling this week.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering what to do with existing stock of Spirotetramat, known by the trade names Movento and Ultor, said spokesman Dale Kemery.
Sales of the pesticide remain legal in Europe, Canada and Mexico, according to Bayer CropScience, which is based in North Carolina. Bayer's North American headquarters is in Robinson.
The decision was handed down three years after scientists identified Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious breakdown of bee immune systems that each winter roughly halved the number of bee colonies the nation's large, commercial beekeepers own. The cause of the breakdown largely has eluded researchers.
In December, Manhattan U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote banned the sale of Spirotetramat on grounds the EPA skipped steps required in any pesticide approval process, including not taking public comment. Cote's decision did not explicitly address the impact the pesticide might have on honeybees.
"Bayer has been touting this as a greener pesticide. It is designed to stop insect reproduction, and it seems to do the same thing to bees," said Aaron Colangelo, an attorney for the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, which, along with the Portland, Ore.-based wildlife conservation group Xerces Society, sued the EPA.
Jack Boyne, an entomologist for Bayer CropScience, said the company is confident the EPA will reapprove Spirotetramat's registration.
"It is unprecedented for a lower court to vacate an approval. We believe the decision was not correct. We have been injured improperly and believe that science is on our side," he said. "As the manufacturer, we are not allowed to sell our inventory of product to our distributors."
The EPA approved Spirotetramat in 2008 for use on hundreds of crops, including apples, pears, peaches, oranges, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, almonds and spinach. Bayer CropScience developed the pesticide after scientists identified Colony Collapse Disorder in late 2006.
"This is one of the safest insecticides for bees," Boyne said.
According to the Department of Agriculture, bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops in the United States.
An estimated 29 percent of all U.S. honeybee colonies died last winter, about 11 percentage points higher than what beekeepers consider normal, but lower than losses during the previous two winters.
Colony Collapse Disorder is linked to viruses, mites, poor bee treatment and poor nutrition, said Dennis van Engelsdorp, a honeybee expert and researcher at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Yet the cause of the die-off remains elusive.
"Will we ever have one cause for cancer? That's what this is like," van Engelsdorp said.
Dave Hackenberg of Lewisburg in Union County is Pennsylvania's largest commercial beekeeper. Because of his concerns about the effect of pesticides on his bees, for the first time in 42 years, Hackenberg will not take his bees to Florida to pollinate oranges.
"I am not going to put my bees in orange groves. The chemicals they are using are doing something that is breaking down bees' immune systems," he said.