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article imageAppeals court: EPA approval of pesticide based on bad information

By Karen Graham     Sep 10, 2015 in Environment
On Thursday, a federal appeals court overturned EPA approval, and blocked the use of Sulfoxaflor, a systemic neurotoxin, over concerns about its effect on honey bees.
The Associated Press is reporting that Judge Mary M. Schroeder, with the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals, said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based their approval of the pesticide, Sulfoxaflor on May 6, 2013, on flawed and limited information. Sulfoxaflor is sold under the brand names Closer and Transform.
Judge Schroeder cited the initial studies that showed sulfoxaflor was highly toxic to honey bees. “Bees are essential to pollinate important crops and in recent years have been dying at alarming rates," Schroeder, a Carter appointee. wrote for a three-judge panel, says the LA Times. She added that the EPA was required to get further tests.
"In this case, given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA's registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it," she wrote. And in the U.S. and the European Union, honeybees are vital to the pollination of crops.
Sulfoxaflor is a systemic insecticide that acts as a neurotoxin on insects. It is the first member of a class of insecticides called sulfoximines which act on the central nervous system of insects but supposedly has a much lower toxicity to mammals. Specifically, it blocks the nicotinergic neuronal pathway, making it a neonicotinoid.
Neonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine. They include acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. These products are said to be less toxic to birds and mammals than insects, but they have been found to be toxic when broken-down.
By the late 1990s, the use of this class of insecticides came under increased scrutiny over their possible adverse effects on the environment. Studies have now linked neonicotinoids to a number of adverse ecological effects, including honey-bee colony collapse disorder (CCD) and the loss of bird populations due to a loss of insects.
Saying he was extremely happy over the ruling, Greg Loarie, an attorney with Earthjustice, which challenged the EPA's approval of sulfoxaflor on behalf of groups in the beekeeping industry said, "It means that sulfoxaflor comes off the market while the EPA does the work it should have done a long time ago."
Loarie said the insecticide was used on cotton crops in the South, and was used in California, based on an emergency request, and used on only one crop.
Janette Brimmer, who represented beekeepers in the challenge before the court said federal appeals courts "almost never" overturn EPA approvals of pesticides. "This was a pretty significant decision," she said. "It revokes the registration, and it is a national registration."
More about sulfoxaflor, Appeals Court, Insecticide, harmful to bees, Epa
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