Commercial beekeepers and environmental organizations filed an emergency legal petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend use of a pesticide that is linked to honey bee deaths, urging the agency to adopt safeguards. The legal petition, which specifies the pesticide clothianidin, is supported by over one million citizen petition signatures and targets the pesticide for its harmful impacts on honey bees.

"EPA has an obligation to protect pollinators from the threat of pesticides," said Jeff Anderson of California Minnesota Honey Farms, a co-petitioner. "The agency has failed to adequately regulate pesticides harmful to pollinators despite scientific and on-the-ground evidence presented by academics and beekeepers."

More than two dozen beekeepers filed the legal petition with EPA. They are concerned about the impacts on their beekeeping operations, which are already in jeopardy.

"The future of beekeeping faces numerous threats, including from clothianidin, and we need to take steps to protect pollinators and the livelihood of beekeepers," said Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co and a co-petitioner.

The legal petition shows that EPA failed to follow its own regulations, according to Beyond Pesticides. EPA granted conditional registration to clothianidin in 2003. Granting the conditional registration was contingent upon the subsequent submission of an acceptable field study showing no "unreasonable adverse effects" on pollinators. This requirement has not been met. In the years since, a substantial body of scientific evidence has confirmed that clothianidin presents serious risks to honey bees, according to Beyond Pesticides.

"Independent research links pollinator declines, especially honey bees, to a wide range of problems with industrial agriculture, especially pesticides," said co-petitioner John Kepner, program director at Beyond Pesticides.

"EPA ignored its own requirements and failed to study the impacts of clothianidin on honey bees," said co-petitioner Peter Jenkins, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety. "The body of evidence against the chemical continues to grow, yet the agency has refused to take action."

"EPA should move swiftly to close the loophole and revoke the conditional registration of clothianidin," said Heather Pilatic, co-director of Pesticide Action Network and a co-petitioner. "Bees and beekeepers can't afford to wait another nine years for inaction."