A federal courtroom will bee-come a hive of activity, with lawyers attempting to sting the government into action over buzz-killing insecticides.
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A federal courtroom will bee-come a hive of activity, with lawyers attempting to sting the government into action over buzz-killing insecticides.

The battle for the bees is headed to court.

Beekeepers and activist groups, fed up with the wanton use of insecticides that kill bees and other pollinators, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday. They are suing to try to force the EPA to ban or better regulate neonicotinoids and other pesticides that kill bees and butterflies and lead to colony collapse disorder.

From a press release put out by the Center for Food Safety, one of the plaintiffs in the case:

“Beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups have demonstrated time and time again over the last several years that EPA needs to protect bees. The agency has refused, so we’ve been compelled to sue,” said Center for Food Safety attorney, Peter T. Jenkins. “EPA’s unlawful actions should convince the Court to suspend the approvals for clothianidin and thiamethoxam products until those violations are resolved.”

The case also challenges the use of so-called “conditional registrations” for these pesticides, which expedites commercialization by bypassing meaningful premarket review. Since 2000, over two-thirds of pesticide products, including clothianidin and thiamethoxam, have been brought to market as conditional registrations.

“Pesticide manufacturers use conditional registrations to rush bee-toxic products to market, with little public oversight,” said Paul Towers, a spokesperson for Pesticide Action Network. “As new independent research comes to light, the agency has been slow to re-evaluate pesticide products and its process, leaving bees exposed to an ever-growing load of hazardous pesticides.”

The lawsuit comes a week after the European Union failed in an effort to ban the use of neonicotinoids. From The Independent:

To the dismay of environmental campaigners, but to the relief of the pesticide industry and some agricultural scientists, the vote resulted in a stalemate. 13 of the 27 European Union member states voted in favour of a ban, while nine voted against and five, including Britain, abstained.

The arithmetic of the vote meant that the necessary qualified majority — with votes weighted according to member states’ populations — could not be obtained, and so the vote was deemed inconclusive.

However, the question of a ban is likely to be voted on again fairly soon. If the issue remains deadlocked, it is possible that the European Commission, the EU civil service which proposed the ban in the first place, could act to bring one in on its own initiative.