SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Beekeepers asked the Ninth Circuit on Friday to block the federal government’s approval of the unrestricted use of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, claiming it will decimate bee populations throughout the United States.
Michele Colopy, a beekeeper and program director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, said sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees and other pollinators. “If a bee is sprayed with it, it will kill them,” she said by phone Friday.
Plants growing near cropland will also absorb and retain residue from the pesticide during aerial spraying.
“If they’re doing aerial applications, it makes that pollen toxic and will kill all the bees when they take it back to the hive,” Colopy said.
It can also harm the hive’s reproductive success if fed to the queen.
Colopy added that ironically, sulfoxaflor also kills beneficial insects like ladybugs that eat crop-destroying pests.
The appellate court ordered sulfoxaflor removed from the market once before over concerns about its toxicity to bees and other pollinators. In 2015, the court found the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s initial approval of the pesticide “was based on flawed and limited data.”
Manufactured by Dow AgroSciences – now Corteva Agriscience – sulfoxaflor was reinstated by the EPA in 2016 with significant restrictions to minimize its exposure to pollinators, by limiting spraying on crops attractive to bees.
But in July, the agency announced it would remove previous restrictions and allow new uses of sulfoxaflor on crops like alfalfa, corn, oats and sorghum. It also added citrus, cotton, cucurbits, soybeans and strawberry back to the list.
“All regulatory data requirements for assessing pollinators have now been addressed and the EPA has adequate data to demonstrate that there will be no unreasonable adverse effects to honeybees resulting from the expanded registration of sulfoxaflor,” the EPA said in a memorandum.
Dismayed by the decision, organizations representing the honey and beekeeping industries have again petitioned the Ninth Circuit to vacate sulfoxaflor’s registration.
In a statement following its July announcement, the EPA said the pesticide is an effective and necessary tool for preventing crop loss from troublesome pests like aphids and the tarnished plant bug lygus.
“Growers may have seen substantial losses (up to 50% for certain crops) due to pests that can now be treated with sulfoxaflor,” the EPA said.
But Colopy said it is pollinators, not pesticides, that save crops.
“Sulfoxaflor is a new chemical that has been manufactured by man. We have all fed generations of people before sulfoxaflor was released. This continual fearmongering that we have to have pesticides to grow food forgets the history of farming. We are not going to starve,” she said, adding, “Pollination increases crop yield, not pesticides.”
The Pollinator Stewardship Council joins the American Beekeeping Federation and is represented by Earthjustice. Its petition follows a similar one filed last month by Environmental groups Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity.
The EPA said it does not comment on pending litigation.