EPA Sued Over Systemic Pesticide Exemption Harming Honeybees

A suit was filed on Tuesday in the Northern District of California by the Center for Food Safety and the Pesticide Action Network North America against defendants United States Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) and Michael Regan (Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency).

The complaint for declaratory and equitable relief alleges that despite being required by law to do so, the defendants failed to answer a 2017 petition for the EPA to “close a regulatory loophole that allows seeds coated with systemic pesticides to evade the registration and labeling requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.” If the loophole remains open, the plaintiffs state that there will be irreparable environmental harm.

Coated seeds are intended to “have an external pesticidal effects on pests and predators of the growing plant.” Despite them being used widely across the United States, their widespread environmental impacts include injuring or even killing birds and insects, as well as contaminating the surrounding air, soil, vegetation, and waterways. Most notably, the coated seeds have detrimental impacts on the honey bee population. The complaint notes that “excessive honey bee mortality and related wild pollinator declines are a major crisis for American agriculture.”

Coated seeds are currently exempt by the EPA from premarket licensing, registration, assessment, and labeling since they fall under the agency’s treated article exemption. The EPA exemption argues that the systemic pesticides coating the seeds are exempt because they are protecting the seed. The plaintiffs argue that they should not be exempt as they do not protect the seed, but rather the growing plant. The current exemption allows the pesticides to remain unregulated.

The plaintiffs assert that the EPA “has for decades intentionally evaded any judicial review by failing to issue any final agency action on the topic.” Previous litigation has been common with the EPA regarding their coated seeds regulations and the corresponding impact on bees and other pollinators.

The complaint cites a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), leading the plaintiffs to seek favorable judgement on the APA count, an order requiring the EPA to respond to the petition within 90 days, litigation fees, and any other relief deemed proper by the Court.The plaintiffs are represented by counsel from the Center for Food Safety.