National Beekeeping organizations along with the National Honey Bee Advisory Board have come together in an attempt to protect the bee industry by an appeal against EPA for its approval of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees, and other insect pollinators.
Sulfoxaflor is a new chemistry, and the first of a newly assigned sub-class of pesticides in the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, which scientists across the globe have linked as a potential factor to widespread and massive bee colony collapse. The case is filed as the beekeeping industry across the country struggles for survival, and faces the costly effects of pesticides upon their businesses.
The National Pollinator Defense Fund, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Beekeeping Federation, and beekeepers Bret Adee, Jeff Anderson and Thomas R. Smith have filed an appeal against the EPA in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting changes needed in the sulfoxaflor label, the Biological Economic Assessment Division (BEAD) assessment of the value of pollinators and their established habits and the EPA’s Risk Assessment Process. These changes would acknowledge pollinator’s critical role in the U.S. food supply, and ensure that decisions regarding new pesticides comply with applicable laws.
Sulfoxaflor was granted a full registration by EPA for most crops, many of which require pollinators. Many other registered crops are utilized by pollinators, including honey bees, as forage. Based on the approved registration, pollinators, especially honey bees, may potentially be exposed numerous times by labelled sulfoxaflor applications as honey bees are moved across the country to pollinate crops, produce the nation’s supply of honey, and recuperate from the rigors of pollination.
The groups are being represented by the public interest law organization Earthjustice. The appeal process through the courts is the only mechanism open to challenge EPA’s decision; it is commonly used by commodity groups to rectify inadequate pesticide labeling.
The following are their statements:
Jeff Anderson, beekeeper: “EPA’s approval of Sulfoxaflor with no enforceable label protections for bees will speed our industry’s demise. EPA is charged under FIFRA with protecting non-target beneficial insects, not just honeybees. EPA’s Sulfoxaflor registration press release says, ‘…the final label includes robust terms for protecting pollinators…’ This is a bold-faced lie! There is absolutely no mandatory language on the label that protects pollinators. Further, the label’s advisory language leads spray applicators to believe that notifying a beekeeper of a planned application, absolves them of their legal responsibility in FIFRA to not kill pollinators.”
Bret Adee, President of the Board of the National Pollinator Defense Fund: “The EPA is charged with preventing unreasonable risk to our livestock, our livelihoods, and most importantly, the nation’s food supply. This situation requires an immediate correction from the EPA to ensure the survival of commercial pollinators, native pollinators, and the plentiful supply of seed, fruits, vegetables, and nuts that pollinators make possible.”
Randy Verhoek, President of the Board of the American Honey Producers Association: “The bee industry has had to absorb an unreasonable amount of damage in the last decade. Projected losses for our industry this year alone are over $337 million. While not all of the losses are due solely to pesticides, there are strong correlations between pesticide misuse killing bees and impairing colony performance.”
George Hansen, President of the Board of the American Beekeeping Federation: “The honey bee industry is very concerned since the EPA has failed to adequately address our comments about realistic risk to pollinators posed by sulfoxaflor. The EPA continues to use flawed and outdated assessments of long term and sub-lethal damage to honey bees.”
Rick Smith, beekeeper and farmer: “The beekeeping industry has proactively engaged EPA to address concerns for many years. The industry is seriously concerned the comments it submitted during the Sulfoxaflor registration comment period were not adequately addressed before EPA granted full registration. The sun is now rising on a day where pollinators are no longer plentiful. They require protection 365 days a year in order to be abundant at the critical moment their pollination service is required by the plant. Applying pesticides in a manner which does not expose pollinators during the period a pesticide is acutely toxic, and, knowing sub-lethal and delayed effects, are the cornerstones in their protection. EPA’s assessment process has chosen not to use long established and accepted published information concerning pollinator foraging habits in the Environment Hazards Section of the Sulfoxaflor label.”