California stung by lawsuit to protect bees | Pesticide Action Network
Reclaiming the future of food and farming

California stung by lawsuit to protect bees

Paul Towers's picture

They’re in our garden plants, sprayed on orchards throughout the state, and used as seed coatings on commodity crops in California and across the country. After five years of review, California officials have not only failed to complete an evaluation of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics), they continue to allow more and more of these bee-harming chemicals into the market.

Fed up with the years of hand-sitting, PAN and our partners brought the state and pesticide manufacturers to court today.

PAN and partners at Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety warned the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) in February that they were violating the law by approving new neonics. They ignored our concerns, despite a mounting body of evidence showing harms to bees. We reminded them again in June, only to have the agency approve more pollinator-toxic products.

Our attorney Greg Loarie at Earthjustice summed up our decision to bring DPR to court pretty well:

“It’s past time for DPR to fix its broken evaluation system and protect our bees and our agricultural economy. It obviously will take legal action to accomplish this.”

Despite five years of review, the agency has yet to finish an evaluation of any neonic product. And over the past couple of years, state officials have either allowed significantly expanded use of neonics or brought new products to market in at least fifteen separate instances.

As I recently noted, this lack of action persists even as independent scientists from around the globe concluded — after review of over 800 studies — that it’s time for international action to restrict neonics and protect bees.

Beekeepers are weighing in too, demanding accountability. Todd Bebb, vice president of the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association and sponsor of bee-protective legislation in California, said:

“Bees are in trouble unless California officials do their part. Our food system, including farms and backyard gardens, rests on bees and beekeepers for continued pollination and support.”

While beekeepers and food and farming groups duke it out with state officials and pesticide manufacturers in court, the California legislature continues to move ahead with a bill that would force DPR to complete its evaluation of neonics on a specific timeline. That bill will be taken up after the July recess.

Local governments in Oregon and Washington have stepped up with bee-protective policies in recent months. And news out of Canada just this week is that at least one province is considering a licensing system to better regulate widespread use of the products.

With legal pressure building on California policymakers and related legislation on the horizon, it's time for the Golden State to get serious about protecting bees from harmful pesticides too.

Paul Towers
Share this post: 


sickfrompesticide's picture
sickfrompesticide /
<p>I live in California in an area (Sacramento County) that yearly is aerial&nbsp;sprayed with pesticides over residential areas in the name of &nbsp;West Nile Virus. They use to spray pyrethrums, but claims it no longer strong enough to kill the mosquitoes and they upped the ante to Nalid - an organophosphate. Sac Yolo County Mosquito and Vector Control sprays with little warning and NO media outlet ever reports the spraying. They quietly put a notice on their website (that no one reads) that spraying will occur&nbsp;about 48 hours before the ominous planes go up and we are "hit" They started spraying in 2005 by airplanes, they fly 300 feet above our home dumping pesticides. EVERYONE in my home is sick. My son has lung scarring, hormonal imbalance and struggles constantly w/his health. I have extreme neurological sickness/pain and up to 50 symptoms in the past 9 years. I have been diagnosed since the spraying began w/brain lesions, thyroid nodules, hormonal issues, fibroid tumors and widespread neuropathy throughout my body. I have contacted every county, federal and local organization and politician I possibly could think of and they keep spraying, no one can stop them. The last time they sprayed directly over us, I had an extreme reaction and my husband was sick for weeks and he suffers illness on a continual basis, we all do. &nbsp;I noticed the after spraying Nalid our sidewalks were lined with dead bees. They recently sprayed a neighboring area last month, not even directly over us as they usually do and bees are dying in our yard and we were several miles from the "spray zone". It has to stop, we are all suffering from extreme health issues in our home. We were once a vibrant and healthy family that is so sick now we cannot work and we have spent every last dollar seeking help, therefore we have no money to move and escape this. I hope your organization is the one that will stop this. I haven't found anyone yet that could stop the spraying. &nbsp;As ill as I have been I am deeply concerned for the bees and when I see them dead on the sidewalk by the dozens, it sickens me. I have had several pets over the years die mysteriously as well. &nbsp;Deaths from simply dropping dead at a young age to suffering bone cancer to one "unwinding" neurologically. God bless your organization for doing what you can to stop these poisonous sprayings. If you can stop the spraying for the reason being the bees, that means it stops poisoning us too. Thank you.</p>
SacMom916's picture
SacMom916 /
<p>Thank you for sharing! I am dealing with the same issues as a result of this spraying. So is my mom and some of my friends!!!&nbsp;</p>
Paul Towers's picture
Paul Towers /
<p>Dear @SacMom916 and @sickfrompesticide,</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I&#39;m sorry to hear about the spraying in Sacramento County and thanks for sharing your story. While no one wants mosquitoes, it&#39;s disappointing that the vector control district would resort to aerially applying an organophosphate (OP) pesticide that likely does more harm than good.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a parent of a young child, this is especially concerning to me given the increased evidence that very small amounts of OPs are linked to adverse impacts on the health and intelligence of children, while there is little evidence that aerial spraying is effective at reducing the threat of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I just moved back to Sacramento to open PAN&#39;s new office and am happy to serve as a resource. I would encourage you to also contact my colleagues at Pesticide Watch Education Fund who have a long history of working on this issue: 916-551-1883. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In solidarity, Paul</p>
CALI's picture
<p>What is Nalid? I don't see it listed on their Website.&nbsp; Is this the correct name?</p>
SacMom916's picture
SacMom916 /
<p>I to am from Sacramento and just this past week , Vector sprayer for Mosquitos without any regard on the community's input&nbsp;in this matter. &nbsp;After the spraying I noticed not only myself , but many other people having sever headaches, body aches (as for me I was down for 3 days with serious chronic pain and sever headaches&nbsp;that lasted 6+ days and I'm steal dealing the headaches. Others in my neighborhood I.e friends, family have been dealing with headaches, nasal drainage, sever mucus&nbsp;in nose and chest, and nausea&nbsp; &nbsp;This is not something that is a virus, and it is NOT allergies!!! &nbsp;According to the doctor the symptoms could be from&nbsp;allergies from the air and chemicals, &nbsp;noted from my mothers doctor. Due to her calling in because of this!!!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is &nbsp;a direct cause to the after effects from VECTOR spraying chemicals, &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>the fact that we are all exposed to this WITHOUT our consent and damaging our properties and gardens with toxins is a violation !!! &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This sprays does NOTHING in eliminating any larva that will spawn more of the same mosquitoes.&nbsp;</p> <p>Cheep is NOT BETTER, &nbsp;as their is no damage control on the effects of this spraying!&nbsp;</p> <p>Their should be ground spraying so it is controlled and dealing with standing waters that are producing the larva!&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am still dealing with headaches from this, and was not aware of this until AFTER the spray ATTACK, &nbsp;and just like many others who may not of know was out in the direct spray both days not realizing we were being toxic sprayed! THIS IS A CRIME AGAINST US ALL!!!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Bee Friendly's picture
Bee Friendly /
<p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; I'm in Western Placer County, and the mosquito abatement program was recently carried out, June30th thru July 12th in various areas.&nbsp; I feel the need for a data base for people who feel health affected. On the 8th and 9th, I could smell a very heavy and thick perfume smell outdoors, and knew right away what it was. Another friend smelled it too, in Sacramento one early AM, wondered what it was! &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; I have been busy, and had not heard or read news announcements about spraying dates, locations...we live where the foothills begin to rise and I have no doubt that the winds carried an accumulation of spray here, from Roseville, where it settled (this has been shown to happen on CA Spare the Air webpage, in their time lapse views of pollution/ozone). I suffered a severe sore throat the 4th/5th, and then my lungs were affected, 5th onward,... very sore lungs/cough, lots of mucus, then I had one day of sneezing and nose running uncontrollably, like a faucet!. Not a cold, not allergies, ....I felt fine otherwise!! I'd call it a reaction. I'm still fighting gunk in throat and lungs, as of the 16th..</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Vector control, to their credit&nbsp; are active in posting their plans, dates, changes to the dates, and even their cache of chemicals used, on their website, are active on Facebook as well, will send alerts, if requested. Whatever they sprayed from the 30th to the first announced dates (rural areas first, no specifics given) GOT ME. I recalled hearing small planes overhead! Not till the 8th when I smelled it, then looked up dates, was I clued in. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Telling people to go inside and bring their pets in, does not offer much protection in a heat wave, when AC systems are pumping outside air, into homes. And yes, the loss of beneficial insects, pollinators should be a huge concern to everyone. The birds/bats must be affected as well, their supply of food, taken out, as well.</p> <p>Thanks for your efforts, keep up the good work!</p>
Janet Mercurio's picture
Janet Mercurio /
<p>Please let me know if the active agent&nbsp;Chlorpyrifos is included in your California lawsuit against neonics. If not, are there any plans to seek to ban its use in California? I live next to an orchard farmer who is using it today on his walnuts. It sounds like a pretty toxic chemical which Wikipedia says is toxic to bees and other organisms.</p> <p>Thank you for your efforts and information.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Paul Towers's picture
Paul Towers /
<p>Hi Janet,</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thanks for reaching out and apologies for the slow reply. This lawsuit doesn&#39;t include chlorpyrifos -- it focuses on neonicotinoid insecticides -- but we have brought other lawsuits federally against US EPA for their failure to protect kids from chlorpyrifos.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And you are right to be concerned. Chlorpyrifos is increasingly linked to a range of impacts on the health and intelligence of children. It&#39;s very volatile so there are issues with the chemical drifting in the air, and potentially deposition in and around neighboring homes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a letter we sent to California officials in January with over 70 other organizations, and later supported by over 12,000 Californians, we called for the chemical&#39;s phase out, while the state work&#39;s to create immediate protections for our kids.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And we renewed this call for action last week.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Please feel free to contact me at 916-588-3100 and I&#39;d be happy to offer any additional assistance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Paul</p>
AliciaMax's picture
AliciaMax /
<p>A new children's picture book called Give Bees A Chance coming out soon to bring education and awareness of &nbsp;all the harm pesticides and other factors like GMOs are doing.&nbsp;</p> <p>Please help the new song and video go viral (one minute and a half) as the BEE ANTHEM# !</p> <p></p> <p>for more information on the author and publisher LovelyPrevin Publications go to</p>
Paul Towers's picture

Paul Towers is PAN's Organizing and Media Director. He is the primary liaison with press and supports campaigns to protect bees, children’s health and challenge corporate control in the food system. He serves on the steering committee of Californians for Pesticide Reform, a statewide coalition that supports policy change for safer food and farming. Follow @PaulAtPAN