EPA will allow use of pesticide harmful to bees

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Monday it will allow states to use a pesticide that is harmful to bees.

The agency made an emergency exception for 11 states to use sulfoxaflor on cotton and sorghum crops.

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“The only emergency here is the Trump EPA’s reckless approval of this dangerous bee-killing pesticide,” Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “It’s sickening that even amid the current insect apocalypse, the EPA’s priority is protecting pesticide industry profits.”

A study published in Nature last year found sulfoxaflor inhibited bumblebee reproduction.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the emergency declaration has been used for four consecutive years in most of the states.

Sulfoxaflor’s use was temporarily barred after a lawsuit from beekeepers in 2015, but the EPA in 2016 changed its instructions for how to use the pesticide in a way designed to reduce the impact on bees. Cotton and sorghum were not included in the directive.

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General wrote in a report last year that the agency did not have processes in place to determine how its emergency measures impact human and environmental health.

An EPA spokesperson said the emergency exemption was granted with public safety in mind, as well as the needs of farmers.

“This decision is based in part on information from the states demonstrating an urgent need and a lack of available alternatives to address the pest pressures within their states. Mitigation measures will be put in place to minimize exposure and reduce the potential for unreasonable risks to the environment. The approvals include advisory guidance for protecting bees, and users must also follow all existing EPA guidance for pollinator protection,” an EPA spokesperson said.

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