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Beekeepers ask for ban on harmful pesticide

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A group of Minnesota beekeepers is asking state agriculture officials to suspend the use of corn seeds treated with certain pesticides, MPR News reports. They say the pesticides, which contain neonicotinoid, are killing their bees.

On Wednesday, beekeeper Steve Ellis delivered a petition signed by 40 beekeepers, asking the Department of Agriculture to ban the pesticides in question, according to KSTP. Ellis says the pesticide is costing the industry hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ellis said the petition's signers represent just over 10 percent of the managed bees in the state.

The corn seeds that most Minnesota farmers plant each year are pretreated with the pesticides, and they don't have access to untreated seeds, according to MPR.

Ellis, who has about 2,500 hives in Barrett, Minnesota, said it's apparent the bees are harmed by the pesticide, because they often die off in the spring, at corn-planting time.

"Apparently the dust is getting off of the corn seeding and going off site and causing poisoning of honey bees on flowers and around their hives," Ellis told MPR.

In addition to seeking action on the state level, Ellis and other U.S. beekeepers have sued the Environmental Protection Agency for not acting on neonicotinoids.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports more than a third of the nation's honeybees have died in each of the past several years.

Studies have shown the pesticides weaken bees' immune systems, but the companies that manufacture the pesticides dispute those findings.

"When used properly and according to label, there has been no demonstrated, extraordinary negative effect on bee health associated with use of neonicotinoid-based insecticides," the group CropLife USA, which represents more than 60 pesticide manufacturers, says on its website."The allegations of these new studies of widespread harm to pollinators contradict nearly two decades of responsible use of these important pesticides on many millions of crop acres worldwide."

The state agriculture department recently began a study of neonicotinoids and whether they are a factor in the bee die-offs, according to the Star Tribune. Ag department officials will present an update on the issue to a House environment committee on Thursday.

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