LIHUE — While Kauai beekeepers celebrated the canceled registration of some pesticides in the Federal Register, some remain concerned about threats to their honey.
That’s after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the final notices of cancellation on the registration of 12 neonicotinoid pesticides.
Kauai beekeeper Jimmy Trujillo said neonicotinoids have “long been identified as the leading culprit” of colony collapse, but not the only one.
“We’ve been finding more and more about the effects of lesser harmful (chemicals) — as far as toxicity,” Trujillo said. “People write off Roundup or glyphosate as an herbicide, but we’re finding it disrupts their ability to navigate and digest.”
He continued: “While the EPA’s canceling of neonics is welcome news, beekeepers, on the mainland especially, are still concerned about the high levels of herbicides and pesticides in their honey.”
The move was required as part of a December settlement in a case involving the Center for Food Safety.
The second half of the settlement will play out in coming years: EPA is required, for the first time, to analyze and address the impacts of the entire neonicotinoid pesticide class on endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Neonics are chemically related to nicotine, and interfere with the nervous system of insects. Bees and other pollinators are exposed to the chemicals through pollen, nectar, dust, dew on plant leaves, and in the soil where some bee species nest.
“Today’s cancellation of these neonicotinoid pesticides is a hard-won battle and landmark step in the right direction,” said George Kimbrell, CFS legal director and lead counsel in the case. “But the war on toxics continues: We will continue to fight vigilantly to protect our planet, bees and the environment from these and similar dangerous toxins.”
Bennette Misalucha, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, said members of HCIA will continue to stringently follow all federal and state laws for safe pesticide use, but the decision could make it harder to control pests.
“Because of Hawaii’s tropical environment, crop-protection products are important in helping control insects, diseases, weeds, and other pests that threaten our homes, our health, the environment and food supply,” Misalucha said.
Trujillo was part of a 2018 study with several other Kauai beekepers and scientist Carl Berg in which Kauai hives were tested for glyphosate. Glyphosate was found in roughly one third of tested beehives, with concentration readings from a single hive as high as 314.6 parts per billion. There is no tolerance limit for glyphosate in honey in the United States. In the European Union, the tolerance level is 50 parts per billion.
“Hawaii was progressive in getting the chlorpyrifos ban,” Berg said.
Gary Hooser of Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action said the EPA ban, coupled with Monsanto losing multiple court battles in its defense of Roundup and state chlorpyrifos bans, all represent a “significant pushback against the chemical companies.”
“Clearly these pesticides are not safe, and clearly these companies have been misrepresenting the facts surrounding the health and environmental impact of their products, which they use by the ton here on the Garden Island,” Hooser said.
The CFS case was originally filed in in 2013. In May 2017, a court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor. The plaintiffs included CFS, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Environmental Health, Pesticide Action Network, and four commercial beekeepers.
“Neonics represent an enormous threat to our bees and pollinators,” said Neil Carmen, pollinator liaison for The Sierra Club, a plaintiff in the case. “Taking these products off the market is absolutely necessary.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.