Daily News Archives
From March 10, 2005
Win in MN Supreme Court Against Pesticide Applicators
In their lawsuit,
the beekeepers, represented by attorneys Stephen Rufer and Tim Rundquist
of Fergus Falls, MN and Gary Van Cleve of Minneapolis, MN, alleged that
the landowners, the State of Minnesota and International Paper, used
Sevin on their plantings with actual or constructive knowledge that
beekeeping operations were within forage range. The beekeepers have
asserted that they suffered annual stock losses of thirty to fifty percent,
and that the landowners did their spraying with full awareness of such
First, the Court held that "a land possessor with actual knowledge or notice of foraging honey bees on the property comes under a duty of reasonable care in the application of pesticides." No other case nationwide had ever recognized a common-law duty specifically protecting bees; prior opinions had held that foraging bees should be regarded as "trespassers," and that a landowner therefore could use his land as he saw fit without any obligations to the bees.
Second, the Court determined that the "state agency expert's interpretation of the pesticide label was not entitled to judicial deference." In so ruling, the Court pointed out that the expert's opinion had been prepared in anticipation of the litigation at issue rather than as a matter of agency policy; thus, the state's expert should be entitled to no more deference than those proffered by the beekeepers, who had very different opinions as to proper interpretation of the Sevin label. In recognizing viable causes of action for the beekeepers, the Court remanded the case back to the District Court for further proceedings.
of Anderson v. State of Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources
are bound to be significant and widespread. Decimation of bee stocks
due to illegal or negligent pesticide application is a nationwide problem,
affecting not only honey production but the crucial pollination function
that bees provide to blooming crops. For example, beekeeper Anderson
has noted the drastic shortage of pollinators for this
As this year's orchard and planting seasons progress, and as farmers look to the root causes of their problems, they will be able to cite the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision as a model case: as a way to proceed in seeking reparations and, ultimately, in furthering the responsibility of pesticide applicators to proceed in accordance with the law.
See comments to EPA from Beyond Pesticides and over 300 beekeepers to EPA calling for a more protective bee caution on pesticide labels. Read more about the effects of pesticides on pollinators in this July 2003 Daily News Story.