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Court Rejects EPA Approval of Bee-killing Pesticide

It's too risky to expose bees like this one to the pesticide sulfoxaflor; a federal appeals court decided the EPA's approval was based on flawed studies. Credit:proxymider/iStock
It's too risky to expose bees like this one to the pesticide sulfoxaflor; a federal appeals court decided the EPA's approval was based on flawed studies. Credit:proxymider/iStock
September 11, 2015

PHOENIX - A pesticide linked to bee deaths may soon become illegal, the result of a federal court decision Thursday.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency's approval of sulfoxaflor was based on flawed studies and said allowing continued use of the pesticide is too risky given the precariousness of the bee populations.

"The EPA now has to go back, do some new studies, get some new information to determine if is it safe to use," said Michele Colopy, program director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, one of the groups that filed the suit.

According to a report from the University of Arizona, sulfoxaflor helps control Lygus bugs and Bemisia whiteflies in some of Arizona's biggest crops, including cotton, melons and lettuce.

Colopy also lauded the decision because it stated that sulfoxaflor is part of a subclass of neonicotinoids that are thought to be harmful to bees - which means other, similar pesticides might be scrutinized next.

"We are hoping this will encourage EPA to tighten up their Tier 2 testing," she said, "and to start looking at some of these other products where maybe they had some flawed data that they collected."

The ban on sulfoxaflor will take effect in 45 days, unless pesticide manufacturers request a new hearing or appeal to the Supreme Court.

The National Honeybee Advisory Board, American Honey Producers Association, American Beekeeping Federation and several individual beekeepers filed the suit, represented by Earthjustice. The full court opinion is online at earthjustice.org.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ