Federal environmental regulators have been ordered revoke permission for Dow to sell its pesticide, sulfoxaflor, and gather more data on its effects on bees.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Thursday to obtain additional studies and data regarding the effects of sulfoxaflor to make sure no unreasonable risk is created for people or the environment, particularly to bees.
Several bee keepers and bee keeping groups sued the EPA to challenge the EPA’s
unconditionally registration of the pesticide, which initial studies showed were highly toxic to bees.
The appeals court found the EPA decision was based on flawed and limited data and was not supported by substantial evidence.
“Given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving he EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it,” Judge Mary Schroeder wrote for the unanimous panel.
Sulfoxaflor is a new pesticide that targets a range of insects, by damaging their nervous system causing tremors, paralysis and death.
The chemical is sprayed on plants, which absorb the chemicals and distribute them throughout the plant, into tissues, pollen and nectar.
Dow sought EPA approval to use sulfoxaflor on citrus, cotton, cucurbits, fruiting vegetables, canola, strawberries, soybeans, wheat and other crops. Dow made claims about the chemical’s benefits compared to other pesticides but the claims and the support for them are not in the public record.
The EPA analyzed the Dow studies using a new framework to assess the risk to bees, given public concern over the rapid decline in bee populations.
The EPA risk assessment concluded that additional studies were required but there is no record those studies have been conducted, the court said.
The EPA did propose some crop-specific restrictions on spraying before or during bloom. The agency also concluded that the pesticide could be applied while these studies were being performed because the sulfoxaflor applications will “not result in a catastrophic loss to brood [bees] during the time period required for the conditional studies.”
The 9th Circuit said that’s not enough.
The EPA showed it analyzed Dow’s study data but not that it found it reliable.
Case: Pollinator Stewardship Council v. EPA, No. 13-72346