The EPA has granted the use of sulfoxaflor for the control of the sugarcane aphid in sorghum.
"Spraying 16 million acres of bee-attractive crops with a bee-killing pesticide in a time of global insect decline is beyond the pale, even for the Trump administration," Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, told EcoWatch.com. "The EPA is routinely misusing the 'emergency' process to get sulfoxaflor approved because it's too toxic to make it through normal pesticide reviews."
Sulfoxaflor, initially believed to be a bee-safe pesticide, was first approved for use in four states in 2012 under the Obama administration. By 2015, it had been approved for use in 13 states.
Experts say sugarcane aphids were first documented in the United States in 1977 but did not become a pest in sorghum until 2013, after which they spread rapidly across sorghum-producing areas of the U.S. and Mexico.
The practice of using the emergency measure to approve questionable products has been widely criticized by the Center for Biological Diversity and other agencies.
In response to a lawsuit by beekeepers, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the EPA's original registration of sulfoxaflor in 2015.
A new EPA registration for sulfoxaflor in 2016 that was supposed to ensure no exposure to bees, excluded crops like cotton and sorghum that are attractive to bees.
EcoWatch reported this week that sulfoxaflor was approved on 16.2 million acres of cotton and sorghum crops in 2018 on an emergency basis in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
"The EPA is far too eager to find loopholes to approve harmful pesticides when it should be focusing on keeping people and wildlife safe from those pesticides," said Donley said. "The routine abuse of emergency exemptions has to stop."
A recent study published in “Nature: The International Journal of Science,” found that sulfoxaflor exposure at low doses had severe consequences for bumblebee reproductive success.
“Nature: The International Journal of Science,” reported that “at dosages consistent with potential post-spray field exposure, sulfoxaflor has severe sub-lethal effects on bumblebee colonies. Field-based colonies that were exposed to sulfoxaflor during the early growth phase produced significantly fewer workers than unexposed controls, and ultimately produced fewer reproductive offspring.”
Bee Culture.com concurred that sulfoxaflor is “very highly toxic” to bees and is a pesticide linked to colony collapse.
Scientists published a report in “Nature” linking sulfoxaflor to a 54 percent population reduction in the bumblebee colony they studied.
Bees are critical to food supply. They pollinate about 100 crop species eaten by 90 percent of the world’s population, experts say. Bees are also responsible for $30 billion a year in crops. Experts estimate 30 to 70 percent of the world’s food crops are impacted by bees.
Environmental Health News.org reported that the EPA had previously classified sulfoxaflor "very highly toxic" to bees.
The agency approved the chemical in two brand name pesticides in 2013, but two years later the U.S. 9thCircuit Court of Appeals overturned the approval because there wasn't enough evidence that the products were safe for bees.
In 2016, the pesticide was re-registered but, due to the court ruling, the EPA prohibited use "on crops attractive to bees before and during bloom" and during times when bees would be foraging.
In 2017, a French court suspended the licenses of Closer and Transform, which both contain the active ingredient sulfoxaflor, because of their toxicity to bees.