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Court Voids EPA Approval of Bee-Killing Pesticide

A panel of federal judges overturned the EPA's approval of a bee-killing pesticide. Credit: alexandrmagurean/iStock
A panel of federal judges overturned the EPA's approval of a bee-killing pesticide. Credit: alexandrmagurean/iStock
September 11, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - An agricultural pesticide that has been linked to the collapse of bee colonies soon may be off the market.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency was wrong to approve sulfoxaflor because the agency's studies couldn't prove the pesticide is safe for bees.

Farmers in Florida use sulfoxaflor to combat greening disease and aphids, said Michele Colopy, program director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, one of the groups that filed the suit.

"Sulfoxaflor might have been another tool to help them," she said. "But we have to change the tools. We've got to get new tools, and that doesn't always mean chemicals."

The EPA states on its website that sulfoxaflor is acutely toxic to bees, but says farmers can lessen the harm by avoiding its use when bees are most commonly present - during the day and when flowers are in bloom. But Colopy said chemicals should only make up a small part of integrated pest management, and that toxic pesticides have to be retired altogether.

"Beekeepers want to protect their bees. Citrus growers need to protect their crops," she said. "So there are ways to work together, but we do need to protect our pollinators because they make a third of our diet possible."

Sulfoxaflor will become illegal in 45 days unless the manufacturers request a new hearing or ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

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 - FL