A US federal court on Sept. 10 struck down EPA’s approval of the insecticide sulfoxaflor from Dow AgroSciences, citing the neonicotinoid’s possible risk to bees.
EPA’s 2013 decision to register sulfoxaflor “was based on flawed and limited data,” a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found.
“Given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm” than does striking it down, the panel ruled. The court ordered the agency to obtain further data on the chemical’s effects on bees before deciding whether to reapprove Dow AgroSciences’ registration of sulfoxaflor, which has been sold under the trade names Transform and Closer.
Commercial beekeeping trade groups and individual professional beekeepers, represented by the environmental group Earthjustice, brought the suit against EPA shortly after the agency gave an unconditional green light to the chemical. “EPA’s pesticide application and review process must receive substantial scientific evidence as to the benefits of a pesticide, as well as the protection of the environment, especially the protection of pollinators,” says Michele Colopy, program director of one of the groups bringing the case, the Pollinator Stewardship Council.
Janette Brimmer, who represented the beekeepers for Earthjustice, an environmental group, said the ruling affects the entire country and will force states to withdraw more local rules that have permitted the insecticide.
Federal appeals courts "almost never" overturn EPA approvals of pesticides, Brimmer said. "This was a pretty significant decision," she said. "It revokes the registration, and it is a national registration."
Dow AgroSciences says it will complete additional studies to support the registration of sulfoxaflor and is weighing possible appeal of the court decision.