EPA Declares “Emergency” to Allow Dumping of Bee-Killing Pesticides on 16 Million Acres

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted “emergency” clearance to sulfoxaflor – an insecticide that, by the agency’s own admission, is considered “very highly toxic” to bees. Sulfoxaflor will be used on over 16 million acres of crops that are attractive to bees.

The move has been denounced as unacceptable by the Center for Biological Diversity, a group that has railed against the cynical and routine use of “emergency” declarations that approve the use of pesticides across millions of acres in a manner that largely disregards risks to both the environment and to human health.

In a statement, senior scientist with the center Nathan Donley said:

“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 … The EPA is routinely misusing the ’emergency’ process to get sulfoxaflor approved because it’s too toxic to make it through normal pesticide reviews.”

However, such warnings are unlikely to shake the EPA, which has exploited its authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act to rush through pesticides, including ones that haven’t yet passed regulatory review, under alleged “emergency” conditions such as the unexpected outbreak of insects that damage crops.

The Center for Biological Diversity has accused the EPA of widely abusing the process in a “routine and foreseeable” manner over the years with little regard for the contamination of pollinators due to the use of sulfoxaflor.

While sulfoxaflor had been widely touted as a bee-friendly version of neonicotinoids, the common insecticide responsible for drastically slashing bee numbers in the past, a study last year by researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London found that exposure to sulfoxaflor could reduce the size of bumblebee colonies and their offspring by 54 percent.

In 2015, U.S. beekeepers and conservationists successfully sued the EPA for flouting federal law and streamlining the approval of sulfoxaflor without holding any reliable study of the neonic’s impact on bee populations. However, by 2016 the EPA introduced a new registration for sulfoxaflor – ostensibly on the grounds that it would ensure no exposure to bees – that allowed for its usage on crops like cotton and sorghum, both crops that attract the pollinators.

By 2018, these allowances allowed for the insecticide’s use in 16.2 million acres across the U.S. on an alleged “emergency” basis, with emergency approvals being granted in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The news comes as scientists have issued increasingly stark warnings over the precipitous decline of insect species’ numbers across the globe, in large measure due to the overuse of pesticides, unsustainable agricultural production processes and climate change. Last week, a global scientific review noted that the extinction of insects worldwide threatens a catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems.”

“The conclusion is clear: unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” the report warned.

Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie commented:

“This is language that scientists don’t typically use … They do when they are trying to flag a substantial crisis. And that’s exactly what this is. You don’t have an ecosystem without insects; insects are the bedrock upon which everyone else sits. We need a food system that is not bringing down the very centerpiece of our food chain.”

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