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EPA Approves Sulfoxaflor as Crop Insecticide After Studying Impact on Bees

Four years after an adverse ruling by a federal appeals court, the EPA approved the insecticide sulfoxaflor for use on a wide variety of crops, saying the chemical posed less of a risk to honeybees than previously thought. The law firm that won the 2015 ruling said the EPA decision “to remove restrictions on yet another bee-killing pesticide is nothing short of reckless.”

The EPA said sulfoxaflor was less harmful than alternative pesticides and would require fewer applications, reducing the risk to wildlife and fish. As a precaution, the agency said it included pollinator protection language in the label directions. Sulfoxaflor, a member of the sulfoxamine class of insecticides, is used against piercing and sucking insects such as aphids, stink bugs, plant bugs, and thrips.

Jim Gulliford, EPA regional administrator in Kansas City, said the long-term approval of the insecticide “will help prevent significant hardship for producers of sorghum, corn, cotton, and other commodities attacked by devastating insects.”

In 2015, a U.S. appeals court ruled that EPA wrongly approved use of sulfoxaflor without adequate investigation of its impact on bee colonies. The agency issued an approval in 2016 for a shorter list of uses and which did not include crops that attract bees while it studied the issue. “Today’s action – adding new uses, restoring previous uses, and removing certain application restrictions – is backed by substantial data supporting the use of sulfoxaflor,” said the EPA.

“Scientists have long said pesticides like sulfoxaflor are the cause of the unprecedented colony collapse. Letting sulfoxaflor back on the market is dangerous for our food system, economy, and environment,” said the environmental law firm Earthjustice, which filed the lawsuit against the chemical.

The EPA homepage for sulfoxaflor is available here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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