Environmental groups have brought actions in state court and before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking action to halt the use of certain insecticides that they claim are linked to the collapse of bee colonies.

In California, Pesticide Action Network North America and other groups call on the state Department of Pesticide Registration to “stop approving neonicotinoid pesticides pending its completion of a comprehensive scientific review of impact to honeybees.” Pesticide Action Network N. Am. v. Cal. Dep’t of Pesticide Regulation, No. RG14731906 (Cal. Super. Ct., Alameda Cnty., filed July 8, 2014). They specifically challenge the department’s June 13, 2014, decision to expand the use of two neonicotinoid insecticides while its scientific review, begun in 2009, remains pending. Claiming violations of the California Environmental Quality Act and Food and Agricultural Code, the organizations seek a stay of the decision or a writ of mandate directing the department to vacate the decision, declaratory relief, permanent injunctive relief, attorney’s fees, and costs. See Center for Food Safety News Release, July 9, 2014.

Meanwhile, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has petitioned EPA “to undertake urgent interim administrative review of neonicotinoid pesticides in light of serious potential harm to honey bees and native bees.” It also calls for the agency to “initiate cancellation proceedings for all neonicotinoid pesticide products, beginning with those for which safer alternatives are available.” NRDC claims that EPA has proposed deferring its evaluation of how this class of pesticides affects bees “until the completion of registration review in approximately 2019. This delay cannot be justified. A substantial and growing body of evidence has linked neonicotinoids to the drastic decline in bee populations in recent years, compelling urgent agency review of neonicotinoids’ effects on bees.” Requesting that EPA complete this review within one year, the July 7, 2014, petition was filed under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and Administrative Procedure Act.

According to an NRDC scientist, “The bee situation is dire. Getting rid of these bee-toxic pesticides is one thing we can do right now to stem the decline.” The organization claims that statistics for 2011 show that 3.5 million pounds of these pesticides were used on 127 million acres of crops, or double the amount applied in 2006. See NRDC Press Release, July 7, 2014.