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Beekeepers: EPA is hiding pesticide files


(NaturalNews) A group of beekeepers and environmentalists suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accused the agency of concealing documents that would prove the agency illegally decided to exempt neonicotinoid-treated seeds and their dust from pesticide regulatory laws.

Neonicotinoids are a family of pesticides that are typically applied to seeds prior to planting. As they grow, the plants take the toxins up into all of their tissues, including pollen, nectar, flowers, leaves and seeds. These toxins then affect any organisms, from honeybees to humans, that later eat any part of the plants.

These pesticides have been singled out as one of the major factors causing an ongoing, worldwide crash in pollinator populations. A 2015 review in the journal Nature found that the rise of neonicotinoids has led to a crash in bird populations, both by poisoning birds directly and by wiping out their food sources. The same year, the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides concluded from a review of 800 studies that neonicotinoids are widely destroying "non-target" animals including soil and aquatic life from earthworms to fish.

The ecological effects of neonicotinoids have been compared in scale to those formerly caused by DDT.

EPA protecting pesticide companies

According to the lawsuit, the EPA issued a guidance document in 2013 that amounted to an exemption from the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for neonicotinoid-treated seeds and their dust-off, even though these substances are materials that can release the pesticides into the environment. But such an exemption is illegal, the plaintiffs say.

Lead plaintiff Jeff Anderson is a beekeeper who says that neonicotinoid-treated seeds and dust have killed hundreds of thousands of bees, contaminated soil and water, and killed birds.

Indeed, at least two studies have implicated dust from neonicotinoid-treated seeds in a massive die-off of more than 37 million bees that took place following the corn planting season in Ontario in 2013.

Yet according to plaintiffs' attorney Adam Keats, the EPA submitted only 200 pages of internal emails and documents related to the case, and these were "riddled with redactions." The agency held back another 5,000 pages of material related to the lawsuit.

"The administrative record is woefully incomplete," Keats said. "It left us in the dark on many issues we feel would be relevant to the case."

Keats is an employee of the Center for Food Safety, another of the plaintiffs.

Beekeeping industry devastated

U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered the EPA to supply him with the 5,000 pages of documents so that he could privately review them and decide if they are relevant. The plaintiffs have asked that he see if the documents indicate that the EPA took any position on whether neonicotinoid-coated seeds and their dust-off are exempt from FIFRA, as well as any evidence that those two seed products might harm bees.

Alsup admitted that his experience as a Justice Department attorney in the 1970s made him sympathetic to the plaintiffs' claims. During that time, he said, he regularly saw government attorneys conceal evidence from the courts.

"I was jaded by that experience," Alsup said.

The heart of the lawsuit centers on whether the EPA's 2013 guidance was simply meant as an informal document, or whether it constituted an unofficial policy that has been near-universally applied. In the latter case, the EPA would be in violation of its obligations under FIFRA.

The lawsuit is opposed not just by the EPA, but also by the farming industry. Industry attorney Karen Carr claimed that regulating neonicotinoid-treated seeds and their dust-off "would have a crushing effect on American agriculture."

Keats replied that unregulated use of "incredibly toxic and incredibly deadly" neonicotinoid-coated seeds has already had such an effect on beekeepers, costing the industry billions.





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