Dave Hackenberg

EPA Sued Again. How Many Law Suits Will It Take?

EPA Sued Again and Again

The new year has just begun and with it a new law suit filed against the United States Environmental Protection Agency by pollinator advocates over failed oversight of neonicotinoid coated seeds.  In a press release issued, January 6, 2015, Center for Food Safety, on behalf of several beekeepers, farmers and sustainable agriculture and conservation groups, filed a new law suit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inadequate regulation of the neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops.

Dave Hackenberg

Beekeeper, Dave Hackenberg

Commercial migratory beekeeper, Dave Hackenberg was featured on The Neonicotinoid View  to discuss his participation in the law suit.  The Neonicotinoid View is a special weekly series produced by The Organic View Radio Show which focuses on the impact of neonicotinoids on the environment. The show, which is the only show focusing specifically on this issue, is hosted by June Stoyer and Colorado beekeeper, Tom Theobald and has been airing since 2012.

Below are some of the highlights of the interview. To listen to the entire segment, please continue to the end of this article.

JS: This is not the first law suit against the EPA that you are involved in. What is this suit about and how will it differ from the previous suits?

DH: This lawsuit is against EPA and the fact that seed coated treatments with neonicotinoids (which have been going on for quite a few years now) are not registered. The seed treatment (the pesticide) is not being registered. The EPA is calling it a seed coating. So we’re basically leaving all of these pesticides…in our environment with no control over it.

There’s no label on the bag (on the seed bag) that’s even a pesticide. All pesticides are regulated. If you are an applicator, you have to be certified to use that pesticide and know what you are doing.  In this case, a lot of farmers don’t even realize that what they are planting is pesticide coated seed.

A lot of farmers don't even realize that what they are planting is pesticide coated seed. -Dave Hackenberg interview on The Neonicotinoid View

Basically, this is putting a lot of pesticide into our environment that nobody has any record of. The EPA really has no record, the government has no record of how much of this product is really going out there and being put into our environment.

Under FIFRA, The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, it requires that EPA registers all pesticides. So for quite a few years now, as long as we’ve had seed treatment, EPA has not been doing its job.

JS: How are neonicotinoids affecting farmers?

DH: Farmers are basically being told what they can and what they can’t do by the chemical companies and the seed companies. The fact that they have taken away the non-treated seed basically is being forced in order to use treated seed.

I’m not only a beekeeper but I’m a land owner. I don’t farm it myself. I rent the land out to farmers. In fact, one of the gentlemen who signed the law suit, Lucas Chris, well, he and his father, are the people who farm my land.

What we have found is after a number of years of using this treated seed, we have killed the microbes. We have killed the fish worms. We are basically ruining our soil. -Dave Hackenberg interview on The Neonicotinoid View

What we have found is after a number of years of using this treated seed, we have killed the microbes. We have killed the fish worms. We are basically ruining our soil. We’re only given that soil.  We’re the farmers. We’re the caretakers of the land. If we kill that soil and we have nothing there. There’s nothing there to make that soil work and to make that soil a living matter so we can grow our crops in it. If the soil is dead, we’ve got ourselves a problem.

This is why farmers are starting to wake up to the fact that we’ve been sold a bill of goods here about how great this stuff is and several years down the road all of a sudden we are finding out that it’s not the deal we were sold.

TT: Dave, I think it is important for the listeners to understand the magnitude of this issue. This isn’t just incidental or minor use of a pesticide. Could you elaborate just how much of this seed treatment is being used and how many acres it involves?

DH: We’re right now at 90% million + acres of corn in the United States.That’s probably about a 35 or 40% increase compared to where we were several years ago when commodity prices rose up and we started planting more corn. Soybeans, we’re probably in the 50 million acre range, give or take. Canola, I don’t know exactly what the acreage is but 25-30 million acres. All of these acres, depending upon which crop you are talking about have been in the last number of years being seed treated.

Scientists at the universities will tell us that probably only 10% of the soil in the US benefit at all from the use of seed treatment.

Now scientists at a number of major universities and even some USDA scientists, will tell you that the seed coatings are put there to take care of things like wire worm, root worm and aphids on soybeans, etc. But some of our scientists at the universities will tell us that probably only 10% of the soil in the US benefit at all from the use of seed treatment. So basically, we’re putting this on 90% more ground than it needs to be.

In reality, there are other products. As a farmer, we do need some chemicals to farm. There are other things out there. There are softer chemicals we could be using and other methods. In our own operations, we are planting a lot of cover crops. What we call heavy cover crops, tubular radishes, a lot of rye and other things that we let go in the Spring. We plant this green matter which gives green manure to our corn and soybean crops.

Getting back to the seed treatment, a year ago (in October) Jim Jones, Assistant Director of EPA made the statement that even seed coating on soybeans was probably an economic loss for farmers. The chemical companies sure didn’t like that but EPA admitted it. The fact of the matter is, that’s not what the suit’s all about. The suit’s about the fact that EPA has not done their job in registering the seed treatment as a pesticide, which it is.

TT:  They have declined to register the seed treatment under the treated item exemption. Can you explain what that is?

From where I sit as a farmer and as a beekeeper, if I am going to use a pesticide, I think they all need registration.

DH: Several years back when the chemical companies were headed in this direction, with seed treatment, they did their homework and got some laws passed which basically exempted seed treatment. They knew where they were headed a long time ago before they got there. So they had some laws passed which said that treated seeds were exempt from pesticide registration.

From where I sit as a farmer and as a beekeeper, if I am going to use a pesticide, I think they all need registration.  Even the ones we are using to take care of the mites on the bees. We need to know what’s out there, what’s being used and how much is being used so we know what’s going on in our environment. Unfortunately, the chemical companies got these laws passed by hook or by crook.

Listen To The Interview

In this week’s segment of The Neonicotinoid View, special guest, commercial migratory beekeeper, Dave Hackenberg talks to host June Stoyer and Colorado beekeeper, Tom Theobald about a new law suit in which the  EPA is being sued over Failed Oversight of Neonicotinoid-coated Seeds.

“The Neonicotinoid View”, which is produced by The Organic View Radio Show is unique, weekly program that explores the impact of neonicotinoids on the environment. Tune in each week as June and Tom explore the latest research and news from the beekeeping community.

To listen to the segment, please click the play button on the video below:

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