Recently the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PAN) sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the agency’s failure to regulate pesticide coated seeds. The crop seeds are coated in neonectides, a type of pesticide that is devastating to bees and other insects. Previously the CFS filed a petition to close this loophole in 2017, but the EPA has not responded.
“Nearly five years ago, we provided EPA the legal blueprint to solve this problem and the legal impetus to do it, yet they have still sat on their hands,” said George Kimbrell, CFS legal director and case counsel. “While EPA fiddles, grave harm to bees and other pollinators continues. That delay must end.”
Across the United States each year, 150 million acres of farmland is taken up by crops such as corn, soybeans and sunflower seeds planted with seeds coated in neonectides. These pesticides target insect nervous systems, causing paralysis and death.
Neonectides can also affect navigation and learning, harming not only insects but also birds, including those formally protected under the endangered species act. As much as 80 percent of the neonectide seed coating is washed into water, soil or air, which spreads the contamination. Clouds of pesticide dust caused by planting operations have caused mass bee die offs.
“Science has shown that coating seeds with pesticides is not only ineffective, but can cause real harm to pollinators, workers, and farmers,” said PAN senior scientist Margaret Reeves, a plaintiff in the case.
“The vast majority of acres planted in crops such as corn, soybean, and cotton are planted with pesticide-treated seeds, yet farmers know less about pesticides applied to their seeds than pesticides applied in other ways. EPA must regulate this use and mitigate this danger.”
Currently, the EPA exempts coated seeds from the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) – an act that regulates pesticide use, labeling and safety. The EPA has not yet evaluated the risks associated with coated seeds. This is something the lawsuit aims to change.