Wednesday, May 08, 2013

EPA Approves Insecticide That's "Highly Toxic" To Honey Bees

May 8: Despite the release on May 2, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. EPA comprehensive scientific report on honey bee health [See WIMS 5/2/13] and stated intentions to protect pollinators and find solutions to the current pollinator crisis, U.S. EPA approved the unconditional registration of the new insecticide sulfoxaflor, which the Agency classifies as highly toxic to honey bees. Despite warnings and concerns raised by beekeepers and environmental groups, the organization Beyond Pesticides indicates that "sulfoxaflor will further endanger bees and beekeeping." The group said EPA continues to put industry interests first to exacerbate an already dire pollinator crisis.
    Beyond Pesticides indicates in a release that in January, the agency proposed to impose conditional registration on sulfoxaflor due to inconclusive and outstanding data on long-term honey bee brood impacts. At that time, the agency requested two additional studies -- a study on residue impacts, and a field test to assess impacts to honey bee colonies and brood development. This week, EPA granted full unconditional registration to sulfoxaflor stating that there were no outstanding data, and that even though sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees it does not demonstrate substantial residual toxicity to exposed bees, nor are "catastrophic effects" on bees expected from its use. While sulfoxaflor exhibited behavioral and navigational abnormalities in honey bees, EPA downplays these effects as "short-lived." The agency says it has reviewed 400 studies in collaboration with its counterparts in Australia and Canada to support its decision. However, these studies do not seem to be currently available in the public scientific literature.

    Beyond Pesticides said, "Instead of denying or suspending registration in the face of dire pollinator losses, EPA instead has chosen to mitigate sulfoxaflor impacts to bees by approving a reduced application rate from that initially requested by the registrant, Dow AgroSciences LLC, as well as increasing the time interval between successive applications. EPA also approved new pollinator label language it believes to be 'robust' to protect pollinators."

    In announcing the approval on May 6, EPA said, "The EPA has granted unconditional registrations for the new active ingredient sulfoxaflor, formulated as a manufacturing use product and two end-use products for use in production agriculture. The EPA is granting the use of sulfoxaflor on barley, bulb vegetables, canola, citrus, cotton, cucurbit vegetables, fruiting vegetables, leafy vegetables, low-growing berries, okra, ornamentals (herbaceous and woody), pistachio, pome fruits, root and tuber vegetables, small vine climbing fruit (except fuzzy kiwifruit), soybean, stone fruit, succulent, edible podded and dry beans, tree nuts, triticale, turfgrass, watercress and wheat.

    "Occupational worker and food safety data confirm these uses are safe when sulfoxaflor is used in accordance with the labeling terms and restrictions. Also, the ecological effects profile for sulfoxaflor supports the registration finding. One area of focus in the review involved pollinator health, and the final label includes robust terms for protecting pollinators. The EPA performed its data evaluation and assessments in collaboration with its counterpart agencies in Canada and Australia. Scientists from the three authorities reviewed over 400 studies and peer reviewed each other's work. The registration will provide growers with a new pest management tool for use on piercing/sucking insects. Sulfoxaflor has been used under an emergency clearance on cotton in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana to control the tarnished plant bug, an insect that has developed resistance to alternative registered pesticides. Sulfoxaflor belongs to its own new insecticide subclass in terms of its mode of action, so it is expected to be used by producers faced with pests that have developed resistance to other alternatives."

    A release from Dow Chemical Company indicates that, "sulfoxaflor belongs to a novel chemical class called sulfoximines invented by Dow AgroSciences and offers extremely effective control of many important sap-feeding insect pests. It can be used in a large number of major crops, including cotton, soybean, citrus, pome/stone fruit, nuts, grapes, potatoes, vegetables and strawberries. Sulfoxaflor has unique attributes compared with other sap-feeding insecticides providing a significant new tool for growers for many years to come." Daniel Kittle, vice president, Research and Development, Dow AgroSciences said, "Sulfoxaflor is an ideal addition to Integrated Pest Management programs. Its unique mode of action provides fast-acting control of harmful pests. Moreover, research data on sulfoxaflor continues to demonstrate lack of cross-resistance with other insecticides. This innovative new option fits conveniently into growers' existing programs to help them protect yields in a wide variety of foods and fiber around the globe."

    Beyond Pesticides indicates that before the approval, several comments were submitted by concerned beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups, that stated that approval of a pesticide highly toxic to bees would only exacerbate the problems faced by an already tenuous honey bee industry and further decimate bee populations. However, they said, "EPA outrightly dismissed these concerns and instead pointed to a need for sulfoxaflor by industry and agriculture groups to control insects no longer being controlled by increasingly ineffective pesticide technologies. EPA also noted that none of the objections to sulfoxaflor registrations pointed to any data 'to support the opinion that registration of sulfoxaflor will pose a grave risks to bees,' even though the agency itself acknowledges that sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees. Instead, the agency says, 'Comments suggested that pesticides can pose risks to bees and that the agency should not allow yet another pesticide to threaten bees.'"

    Access a release from Beyond Pesticides (click here). Access the 51-page EPA response to public comments (click here). Access an announcement from EPA (click here). Access a release from Dow Chemical Co. (click here). Access the recent EPA-USDA report on bees (click here). [#Toxics]

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