Despite new findings that prove a heightened crisis in US bee populations and a recent ban in Europe on similar chemical applications, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to further endanger the population Monday by approving a "highly toxic" new pesticide.
The agency granted sulfoxaflor, a product of the Dow Chemical Company, "unconditional registration" for use on vegetables, fruits, barley, canola, ornamentals, soybeans and wheat among others, despite the EPA's own classification of the insecticide as "highly toxic to honey bees."
According to the Washington Examiner, the EPA's studies on the chemical's long-term effect on bees proved to be "inconclusive due to some issues with the study designs" and thus the EPA has proposed simply reducing the amount applied.
As part of their decision, the EPA approved new language for the sulfoxaflor labels which reads, "Do not apply this product at any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall," during heightened pollinator activity.
Further, they approved an additional 'advisory pollinator statement':
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Notifying known beekeepers within 1 mile of the treatment area 48 hours before the product is applied will allow them to take additional steps to protect their bees. Also limiting application to times when managed bees and native pollinators are least active, e.g., before 7 am or after 7pm local time or when temperature is below 55oF at the site of application, will minimize risk to bees.
Though the EPA believes this advisory to be “robust” enough to protect pollinators, environmental advocacy groups such as Beyond Pesticides believe such statements "not only underscore the risks to bees" but prove to be unrealistic since systemic pesticides, including sulfoxaflor, "continue to exist in the plant (including pollen and nectar) for longer periods of time that well surpasses the recommended application intervals, and therefore expose bees to residues longer than suggested."
And, in addition to harming bees, sulfoxaflor has been known to cause tumors and carcinomas in mice and rats and has been classified as "suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential."
Dismissing these concerns, the EPA alternately points to the "need for sulfoxaflor by industry and agriculture groups to control insects no longer being controlled by increasingly ineffective pesticide technologies," proving the ongoing and harmful nature of unsustainable techniques such as pesticide sprays.
Following Europe's announcement last week that they would suspend the use of bee-harming neonicotinoids in an effort to combat the rampant colony collapse crisis, many hoped the US would announce similar reforms.
However, following this week's announcement, groups say it is clear the EPA will continue pursue an "irresponsible" and "counter-intuitive" agenda in regards to bee health and the environment.