The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6405

Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, (443) 854-4368

Jason Rylander, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 682-9400

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Endangered Wildlife From New, Toxic Pesticide

Threatens Pollinator Bees, Butterflies, Birds, Frogs


Conservation and food-safety groups submitted a formal notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency today for failing to protect threatened and endangered species, including butterflies, amphibians and birds, from flupyradifurone, a newly approved systemic insecticide. The EPA recognized that flupyradifurone could harm wildlife protected under the Endangered Species Act but failed to consult with expert wildlife agencies as required by the Act before approving it on January 14, 2015. The new insecticide would be especially harmful to imperiled, solitary bees like the blue orchard bee. These agriculturally significant bees are prolific pollinators, already suffering from the effects of other systemic insecticides.

"This toxic, systemic insecticide poisons an entire plant and anything that feeds on it, but the EPA has turned a blind eye to how it will hurt imperiled wildlife like the endangered Karner blue butterfly," said Lori Ann Burd, Environmental Health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "It's our government's duty to investigate how dangerous insecticides might impact wildlife -- not just rubberstamp their approval."

Unlike other pesticides, which remain on the surface of plants, flupyradifurone is part of a new class of systemic insecticides that are taken up by the plant and transported to all plant tissues including leaves, flowers, roots, pollen and nectar. Systemic insecticides also include neonicotinoids, which numerous scientific studies have shown are one of the key factors driving the collapse of America's bee populations.

"Our country's pesticide approval process is broken," said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. "EPA is unlawfully allowing pesticides on the market without addressing the harms to wildlife and agriculture from the most dangerous new and old pesticides. It has to stop."

The federal agency failed to consider the highly toxic impacts of this new systemic insecticide on native pollinators such as butterflies and bees, and on a range of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and aquatic invertebrates. While its own "acute oral toxicity study" indicates that flupyradifurone is highly toxic to individual adult bees, the EPA claims the product is safer for bees than other systemic insecticides because the highly toxic product will kill bees that ingest it in the field -- unlike other systemic insecticides that are often carried back to the hive to poison whole colonies. While flupyradifurone may be "better" for honeybees and bumblebees than it is for solitary bees, there are 4,000 speciesof solitary bees living in the United States whose wellbeing the agency's claim effectively ignores. The EPA's own risk assessment recognizes that this pesticide is both persistent and mobile, meaning it will reach aquatic environments and put additional species at risk.

"EPA is supposed to make sure that people, communities and wildlife are safe from the pesticides that get sprayed across our neighborhoods, waterways and wildlife habitat," said Jason Rylander, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. "Before EPA puts these pesticides on the market it has an obligation to make sure they won't needlessly kill our country's most imperiled pollinators."

For decades the EPA has approved hundreds of pesticides that can harm endangered wildlife without consulting expert wildlife agencies as required by the Endangered Species Act. In 2013 the National Academy of Sciences issued a report identifying problems and suggested solutions to correct the agency's flawed approach for reviewing the impacts of pesticides on endangered wildlife.

In approving flupyradifurone, the EPA failed to remedy the problems identified by that report and did not complete the required Endangered Species Act consultation.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252