Monday, February 25, 2019

EPA issues 'emergency exemption' for fourth year to allow limited use of a pesticide that is harmful to bees

The Environmental Protection Agency will allow farmers in 18 states this year to use an insecticide that may kill bees on two crops, sorghum and cotton, that attract bees.

This is the fourth straight year that EPA has issued an emergency exemption for sulfoxaflor, which is not approved for general use. Dow AgroSciences marketed the pesticide, sold under the brand names "Closer" and "Transform" as an alternative to neonicotinoids that harm bees, Zoe Schlanger reports for Quartz. But the pesticide apparently failed to live up to expectations, and was banned in 2015 after beekeepers, environmental groups and honey industry advocates filed suit.

Sulfoxaflor behaves very like neonicotinoids, researchers found. "A paper published in Nature in August 2018 found that exposure to sulfoxaflor significantly lowered bees’ ability to reproduce. Exposed colonies had fewer than half the number of offspring as unexposed colonies," Schlanger reports.

In 2016 EPA reapproved sulfoxaflor but said it could only be sprayed on bee-attracting crops after their bloom period. It allowed exceptions for cotton and sorghum, and could extend further exceptions in the future: "In October 2018, Dow submitted an application to expand the use of sulfoxaflor to rice fields, avocado trees, household plants, tree farms, and greenhouses," Schlanger reports.

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