Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

ONE DAY left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

For Immediate Release

Press Release

EPA Sued Over Failure to Close Pesticide-Coated Seed Loophole Killing Bees and Endangered Species

SAN FRANCISCO -

Yesterday, Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Pesticide Action Network of North America sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the agency’s failure to regulate pesticide-coated seeds, harming bees and other pollinators. These crop seeds are coated with systemic insecticides known as neonicotinoids, the most widely used insecticides, and have devastating environmental effects. CFS filed a rulemaking petition back in 2017 that would close the loophole, but EPA has still never addressed it.

“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 counsel in the case. “While EPA fiddles, grave harm to bees and other pollinators continues. That delay must end.”

Crops grown from coated seeds, such as corn, soybean, and sunflower seeds, cover over 150 million acres of U.S. farmland each year. Neonicotinoids are taken up into the plant’s circulatory system as the plant grows, permeating leaf, pollen, nectar, and other plant tissues. Neonicotinoids affect the central nervous system of insects, causing paralysis and death. Sublethal impacts include impaired navigation and learning. As a result, beneficial insects, valuable pollinators, and birds—including threatened and endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act—are killed or injured. Additionally, more than eighty percent of the pesticide coating can leave the seed, contaminating the air, soil, and waterways of surrounding environments. Most notably, clouds of neonicotinoid-laced dust released during planting operations has caused mass die-offs of honey bees and wild native bees.  

“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.”

The 2017 petition demanded EPA close a regulatory loophole that allows seeds coated with systemic pesticides (coated seeds) to evade the registration and labeling requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA currently exempts coated seeds from FIFRA’s registration requirements and has failed to assess the risks of these unregulated seeds—while never providing the public with any justification for this exemption.

CFS, through its Pollinators & Pesticides program, has long advocated for thorough, science-based safety testing and proper regulation of new pesticide product uses prior to any marketing and cultivation of crops, in a manner that minimizes lethal and sublethal effects on non-target species. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Pesticide Action Network of North America and Center for Food Safety, represented by counsel from the Center for Food Safety.

###

Center for Food Safety's mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. CFS's successful legal cases collectively represent a landmark body of case law on food and agricultural issues.

As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·


Assange Makes Final Appeal Against US Extradition

"If Julian Assange is not free, neither are we," said a protester at a Friday demonstration against the WikiLeaks founder's impending transfer. "None of us is free."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Payoff for 40 Years of Dark Money': Supreme Court Delivers for Corporate America

"It was the conservative court's larger agenda to gut the regulatory state and decimate executive powers to protect Americans' health and safety," warned one expert.

Jake Johnson ·


NARAL Pro-Choice Endorses Fetterman—Who Vows to End Senate Filibuster to Protect Abortion Rights

"We know we can count on him to boldly fight for abortion rights and access," said the head of one of the nation's largest reproductive rights advocacy groups.

Jon Queally ·

Common Dreams Logo