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In lawsuit led by MN beekeeper, judge rules EPA shouldn't have approved harmful pesticides

Neonicotinoids have been highlighted as a factor in the decline of bee populations.
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A Minnesota beekeeper won an important battle in court last week, when a federal judge ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated federal rules when approving pesticides harmful to bees.

Steve Ellis, a honey producer and commercial pollinator from Barrett, was the lead plaintiff on a lawsuit arguing that the EPA approved 59 neonicotinoid insecticides without considering the impact they could have on endangered species including bees and butterflies.

Last week, northern California District Judge Maxine Chesney ruled that the EPA had violated the federal Endangered Species Act by not consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before approving the chemicals.

Chesney found the EPA improperly approved 38 pesticides containing Thiamethoxam and 21 pesticides containing Clothianidin, which the agency admitted in its own submission documents are "toxic to bees."

The lawsuit claimed the neonicotinoids have killed hundreds of thousands of bees and adversely impacted other wildlife, including birds and mammals.

It's been four years since the suit was filed by Ellis and a coalition of other beekeepers and environmental groups. Since then, the Fish and Wildlife Service has put three more insects affected by neonicotinoids on the Endangered Species List.

As MPR reports, these include two butterflies found in Minnesota, the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling, and the rusty-patched bumblebee that was listed toward the end of last year and is found across the Midwest.

In an interview with CourtsideNews after the ruling, the beekeepers' counsel George Kimbrell called it a "vital victory for bees, beekeepers and broader environmental protection."

So what next? MPR says the judge will now consider whether she should suspend some of the products, with her decision expected to take a few months.

Pesticide manufacturers including Bayer, Syngenta, Valent USA and Croplife USA had argued against Ellis and his fellow beekeepers.

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