Beekeepers file lawsuit against EPA for approval of insecticide linked to pollinator death

"When brought back to the hive sulfoxaflor "can impair the colony’s ability to breed, forage, fight disease and survive the winter."

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Image Credit: Genetic Literacy Project

Beekeepers in the United States filed a lawsuit last week against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its approval of the dangerous insecticide sulfoxaflor.

“Honeybees and other pollinators are dying in droves because of insecticides like sulfoxaflor, yet the Trump administration removes restriction just to please the chemical industry,” said attorney Greg Loarie from Earthjustice, the group representing the beekeepers. “This is illegal and an affront to our food system, economy, and environment.”

Sulfoxaflor, which has been marketed as the “next-generation neonicotinoid,” is an insecticide responsible for contributing to the massive destruction of bees across the U.S. Once distributed, sulfoxaflor is absorbed into growing plants, making it toxic to insects for days afterward.

Not only is this dangerous for individual foraging honeybees but when the bees from back tainted pollen and nectar to the hive the entire colony can be affected. According to scientists, when brought back to the hive sulfoxaflor “can impair the colony’s ability to breed, forage, fight disease and survive the winter.”  With beekeepers in the U.S. losing over 40 percent of their colonies last year, allowing sulfoxaflor back on their market could be catastrophic for bee populations.

The history of sulfoxaflor is bumpy. The neonicotinoid was first approved by the EPA in 2013 but a lawsuit brought by Pollinator Stewardship Council, the American Beekeeper Federation, and Earthjustice succeeded in overturning it.

Then, in 2016, the EPA re-approved sulfoxaflor with restrictions in order to protect pollinators. The Trump Administration removed these restrictions without public notice in July of this year.

“It is inappropriate for EPA to solely rely on industry studies to justify bringing sulfoxaflor back into our farm fields,” said Michele Colopy of Pollinator Stewardship Council. “Die-offs of tens of thousands of bee colonies continue to occur and sulfoxaflor plays a huge role in this problem. EPA is harming not just the beekeepers, their livelihood, and bees, but the nation’s food system.” 

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