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Minn. beekeepers win a round against EPA on insecticide approval

By Josephine Marcotty

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Beekeepers have won a round against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a protracted lawsuit over a class of insecticides implicated in the decline of honeybees and other wild insects.

A federal judge in California ruled that, in reviewing new pesticides, the EPA should have included the potential impact of neonicotinoids on insects that are on the endangered species list.

Judge Maxine Chesney of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that the EPA had unlawfully issued 59 pesticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for a wide variety of agricultural, landscaping and ornamental uses.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Food Safety, a group of other environmental groups, and several beekeepers, including one from Minnesota. It challenged the EPA’s approval of several neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that are the most widely used in the world.

“It is law you that you cannot harm endangered species, whereas you can harm a honeybee” said Peter Jenkins, the attorney for the Center for Food Safety. “But we are using the power of the endangered species act to protect beekeepers as well.”

One of the most common uses of neonicotinoids is in coating seeds for corn, soybeans, and other commodity crops widely planted in Minnesota and other Midwestern states. The toxins are absorbed by the plant as it grows, making it toxic to pests. But they have also been shown to be harmful to honeybees and other insects that feed on pollen or which are exposed to it during planting time.