The largest beekeeping organizations in America and several other groups have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its approval of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees, and other insect pollinators.
“America is fully capable of producing healthy, nutritious food without sacrificing the last of our honey bees. This isn’t rocket science, it’s just a matter of EPA doing its job,” says Gregory Loarie, staff attorney at Earthjustice, the public interest law organization representing the case.
Sulfoxaflor, created by Dow Chemicals, is the first of a newly assigned sub-class of pesticides in the “neonicotinoid” class of pesticides. Many scientists across the globe have linked this class of pesticides as a potential contributing factor to massively widespread bee colony losses.
The case is timely. It was filed as beekeepers nationwide continue to struggle for survival and face the costly effects of pesticides upon their businesses.
“Airing on the side of caution can only save bees,” says Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine.
The Pollinator Stewardship Council (formerly, the National Pollinator Defense Fund), National Honey Bee Advisory Board, American Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation, and beekeepers Bret Adee, Jeff Anderson, and Thomas R. Smith argue that the EPA violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by granting the new pesticide full registration for most crops and by dismissing conclusions from their risk assessors that Dow Chemical’s own field tests could not adequately determine pollinator safety.
The agency also failed to accurately measure sulfoxaflor’s fiscal impact. The EPA is also required by the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to determine that a pesticide does not pose an unreasonable risk to the environment or to economic interests.
“This case is really quite simple: bees are getting wiped out, and yet the EPA rubber stamped another bee-killing pesticide,” says Loarie. “EPA failed the beekeeping industry and all of us who rely on a sustainable food supply by refusing to consider threats to pollinators from this new pesticide.”
“Native and managed pollinators are a national resource providing an irreplaceable service in the production of high quality fruits and vegetables for our families,” says Rick Smith, a beekeeper and farmer. “Pesticide application is a stewardship responsibility farmers take seriously. The EPA neglected to provide mandatory label instructions which would protect pollinators and allow farmers to proudly live up to that stewardship responsibility.”
The use of sulfoxaflor on millions of acres of farms and orchards nationwide will exacerbate a growing crisis in which about one-third of America’s honey bee colonies have collapsed each year since neonicotinoids first became prevalent in the mid-2000s. As a result of this catastrophic die-off, our food security now hangs in the balance.
Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, professional researcher, and producer of the award-winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees.
Find out more about Maryam….
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