The US Environmental Protection Agency is allowing new uses and bringing back some former uses of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, despite concerns from environmental groups that the chemical adversely impacts bees.
Sulfoxaflor belongs to a class of insecticides called sulfoximines, according to Dow AgroSciences, now Corteva Agriscience, the manufacturer of the chemical. Environmental groups say that the pesticide behaves similarly to imidacloprid and clothianidin, two neonicotinoid pesticides that are under scrutiny for harming bees and other pollinators.
The EPA pulled sulfoxaflor off the market in 2015, following a federal appeals court order to do so because of concerns about the chemical’s adverse effects on bees. A year later, the agency allowed the pesticide to be used with certain restrictions on a few crops that it claimed do not attract bees.
For the last several years, the EPA has also granted emergency exemptions to use sulfoxaflor on sorghum and cotton. Now, the agency is allowing new uses of the pesticide on several crops, including “alfalfa, corn, cacao, grains (millet, oats), pineapple, sorghum, teff, teosinte and tree plantations.” The agency is also allowing use of the chemical on “citrus, cotton, cucurbits, soybeans and strawberry,” without the restrictions that were put in place in 2016.
“The EPA has adequate data to demonstrate that there will be no unreasonable adverse effects to honey bees resulting from the expanded registration of sulfoxaflor,” the agency says in the July 12 registration notice.
Environmental groups that sued the EPA when the agency first approved sulfoxaflor use are disappointed in the decision. “At a time when honeybees and other pollinators are dying in greater numbers than ever before, Trump’s EPA decision to remove restrictions on yet another bee-killing pesticide is nothing short of reckless,” Greg Loarie, attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice, says in a statement. “Letting sulfoxaflor back on the market is dangerous for our food system, economy, and environment.”
Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced that it was temporarily defunding the annual survey of honey bees in the US conducted by the Department of Agriculture. The EPA has not said how it will monitor the impacts of sulfoxaflor on honey bees without the survey data.