UPDATE 1-Environmental group sues U.S. EPA over monarch butterfly demise

Fri Feb 27, 2015 6:12pm EST
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(Adds EPA comment, paragraphs 5, 6)

By Carey Gillam

Feb 27 (Reuters) - An environmental group sued the U.S. government on Friday, accusing regulators of discounting the dangers that a widely used herbicide poses to the declining monarch butterfly population.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in U.S. District Court in New York. The suit claimed the agency has failed to heed warnings about the dangers to monarchs posed by glyphosate, the key ingredient in a widely used herbicide. Glyphosate is used in Monsanto Co's Roundup and other herbicides.

Federal law requires EPA to ensure that pesticides it approves will not cause "unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, including wildlife," the lawsuit states. "However, the agency has never considered glyphosate's impacts on monarchs."

The NRDC and other environmental organizations have asked the EPA to review what they say is a large body of scientific evidence demonstrating glyphosate's "devastating" effects on monarchs, but the EPA has not acted, the suit claims.

In response, the EPA issued a statement saying it is taking several steps to protect the butterflies but the science on the issue "is still evolving."

"There are multiple factors that may be effecting monarchs including loss of habitat, weather and pesticides," the EPA said.

The orange-and-black spotted monarchs, renowned for migrating thousands of miles (km) over many generations from Mexico, across the United States to Canada, and then back again, have seen their numbers fall dramatically in recent years, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.   Continued...