A lawsuit has been filed against the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming it is not doing enough to protect the nation's declining bee population.
(TMP File Photo)
The suit was brought by a coalition of beekeepers and environmental groups, including the Pesticide Action Network.
Paul Towers, organizing and media director for the Pesticide Action Network, says the EPA has failed by allowing bee-toxic pesticides in dozens of widely used agricultural products for years.
"EPA has acted as a rubber stamp for these neonicotinoid products," he says. "They've rushed the products to market, and even when they're on the market, they've failed to provide the right protections on these pesticide labels. So EPA has really shirked its responsibility and that's why we're taking them to court."
Research points to a combination of factors likely to blame for honeybees disappearing, including pesticides and bacterial infections.
Beekeepers in the United States have been losing about a third of their bees annually and this past year there was a record high, with many reporting losses of 40 to 50 percent.
It was even worse for Steve Ellis, who owns the Old Mill Honey Company and is among the plaintiffs.
Ellis says he lost nearly two-thirds of his bees this year and, like many other keepers, didn't have enough to fulfill his pollination contracts with almond growers in California.
Ellis says that will have a ripple effect on a variety of crops and consumers nationwide.
"You sit down at the breakfast table and you want to have your blueberries and your apples and your cherries and your almonds," he says. "And if those yields are going to be impacted by insufficient pollinators, the price is going to go up and the availability is going to go down."
With the filing of the suit, Paul Towers says the Pesticide Action Network hopes to force the EPA to review these products independently, and through the normal and more rigorous process.
"And in the interim, it should impose restrictions on the use of these pesticides that are toxic to bees," he says. "Those are the clear and easy steps that the agency can take to ensure the success of bees, of pollination and to support our food system."
It is the EPA's policy to not comment on pending litigation.