Victory for Bees! EPA Halts Pesticide Approvals

Apr 3, 2015
By Jenesse Miller

The buzz this week is about honey bees.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on April 2, 2015 that it was unlikely to approve new or expanded uses of neonicotinoid pesticides while the agency evaluates their risks to honey bees. This is an important step in protecting honey bee populations from further decline and a victory for bee advocates.

Pesticides are widely used in agriculture and have in recent years been under increased scrutiny due to the declining numbers of bees and other pollinators which play critical roles in food production. Both the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have received messages from thousands of citizens throughout the country--including more than 19,000 CLCV members who wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack--demanding that the agencies halt the approval of and/or suspend the use of potentially harmful pesticides.

According to the EPA:

...[T]he Agency has sent letters to registrants of neonicotinoid pesticides with outdoor uses informing them that EPA will likely not be in a position to approve most applications for new uses of these chemicals until new bee data have been submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete. The letters reiterate that the EPA has required new bee safety studies for its ongoing registration review process for the neonicotinoid pesticides, and that the Agency must complete its new pollinator risk assessments, which are based, in part, on the new data, before it will likely be able to make  regulatory decisions on imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran that would expand the current uses of these pesticides. Affected neonicotinoid actions include:

  • New Uses (including crop group expansion requests)
  • Addition of New  Use Patterns, such as aerial application
  • Experimental Use Permits
  • New Special Local Needs Registrations

Bee colony losses due to Colony Collapse Disorder (when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear) began to be identified in 2006. Scientists believe that bees' decline is due a variety of factors, including exposure to pesticides as well as herbicides, habitat loss, lack of genetic diversity, and disease.

Honey bees are directly responsible for pollinating more than one third of the United States' entire food supply. Nearly 100 varieties of fruits depend on them for pollination, including produce like almonds, cranberries, avocados, and apples. They also help to generate more than $15 billion in agricultural production in the U.S each year.

Here in California, we have a special responsibility to respond to this threat and protect honey bees. Our state's agricultural production account for more food than any other state in the nation – and that means our local economies depend on the health of honey bees.

The EPA is issued its statement as it continues to conduct an assessment of the six types of neonicotinoid pesticides and their impact on honey bees. The evaluation of four of these is expected by 2018, with the remaining two completed the following year. The EPA said its decision was motivated by the agency's "ongoing effort to protect pollinators."

Importantly, the agency didn't extend its regulations to include neonicotinoids already on the market. In addition, the EPA added that "if a significant new pest issue should arise that may be uniquely addressed by one of these chemicals, EPA is prepared to consider whether an emergency use... might be appropriate."

CLCV thanks our thousands of members whose grassroots pressure, combined with the voices of so many Americans concerned about declining bee populations, has helped bring about this important victory. There is much more to do to protect our honey bees, but the news this week proves that (just like bees) there is real power in our numbers.

While we celebrate this decision, we continue to call on the USDA to halt Dow Chemical Corporation's expansion of pesticide products that contain the insect neurotoxin sulfoxaflor (currently marketed under brand names "Transform," "Closer" and "Seeker") and suspend the use of sulfoxaflor on all crops. The EPA approved the use of the pesticide in May 2013.

National beekeeping organizations represented by EarthJustice have appealed the EPA's approval, saying sulfoxaflor has been shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees and other insect pollinators. The case, "Petitioners in Pollinator Stewardship Council v. EPA," will be heard in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on April 14 in San Francisco.

Stay tuned and take action at



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