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Pesticides

Sulfoxaflor pesticide returns to the US market

The EPA allows new and former uses on many crops without restrictions

by Britt E. Erickson
July 15, 2019

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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.

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Comments
Allan Felsot (July 17, 2019 4:02 PM)
Herein lies the problem with the "scientists" inhabiting environmental advocacy NGOs. Simply stated, they do not actually read (perhaps read without comprehension) the primary literature. If they had read the literature for sulfoxaflor, they'd understand that the sulfoxime groups of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists bind to a different site on the protein than the "older" neonics, have a higher LC50 against honey bees, and furthermore, are not used as soil applied or drench systemics as are the neonics of highest toxicity to bees. Indeed, if they actually read the literature, they would have realized that acetamiprid, an "older" neonic, and heavily used in fruit production as a sprayed material, has an LD50 against bees that is 2-3 orders of magnitude less toxic than imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam (the most controversial neonics). Thus, pesticide selectivity has been achieved through changes in structure, and it is possible to synthesize new insecticides with similar modes of action as older ones but with significantly lower toxicity to non target organisms. Quite simply, it would be helpful if reporters asked these advocacy scientists if they actually read the array of literature that is easily accessible through GOOGLE Scholar. But how would reporters know what is actually out there?
Yash Cruz (July 20, 2019 4:38 PM)
It is fascinating that your first two sentences are an ad hominem "strawman" attack. I read the literature (or try to keep up with it, this isn't my field). I also read the section of manuscripts where you don't mention financial-conflict-of-interest, nor who your funders are. For example, your funding from Bayer, the American Cyanamid, Chevron Chemical Corporation, Myers Chemical Company, Imperial Chemical Industries, and these are just a few mentions.

If you were serious about debate and getting at the truth, just state your thesis and the factual premises that support that thesis. Fallacy attacks are an overt probable indication that you may be a paid industry-spokesperson, thereby making the scientific field worse for everyone in science. Keep it professional, and just keep with the data. Loarie is just a lawyer, not a scientist. If his statement is really contradicted by the non-tainted industry-paid science, you've got the truth. Be the better person.

If you don't keep it non-political, your first two sentences are a red flag for social justice groups, politicizing this issue. You are creating a minefield not just for yourself, but the rest of us. Let's just keep with the science. If you remove your first two sentences, and your last sentence, you make a compelling argument to someone not in the field of pesticide toxicology. I would happily look up pubmed and verify your argument. Instead, you created a statement that comes across specious and self-subversive.
Eileen (July 17, 2019 5:01 PM)
They don't care it's all about money. We need to take to the streets and protest the takeover of our beautiful planet before its too late.
cliff (July 19, 2019 8:02 AM)
OK. The 'scientist' said let's just keep right on poisoning the planet.
As well as ourselves. Its what humans do best.
Ever heard of a book titled 'Silent Spring'?
Thought not.
PRussell (August 9, 2019 11:18 AM)
Just the facts folks, please! I’m really interested in this if it is truly harming bees. I want to sign a petition but I would like to know the facts, not the politics. Thanks

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