The EPA has approved the use of a powerful pesticide that the agency’s own research determined was lethal to honeybees.
The agency’s approval of the insecticide sulfoxaflor, manufactured by the Dow Chemical Corporation's Corteva Agriscience, comes just days after the USDA acknowledged that it has stopped tracking the honeybee population. The agency’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) collected statistics on the number of honey bee colonies and U.S. honey production for decades, to help track honey bee mortality. Lack of data going forward will make it difficult to gauge the effect of sulfoxaflor use on the been population.
Bee pollination is responsible for about a third of the nation’s food supply. A decrease in the numbers of bees – from 6 million in 1947 to 2.3 million in 2008 - has alarmed scientists, who point to the use of pesticides on crops as one of the possible reasons for the decline.
In registering new uses for sulfoxaflor and restoring previously registered uses, the EPA cited "substantial data" ensuring that when used correctly, "sulfoxaflor poses no significant risk to human health and lower risk to non-target wildlife, including pollinators, than registered alternatives. Sulfoxaflor is an effective tool for growers that has a lower environmental impact because it disappears from the environment faster than widely-used alternatives like neonicotinoids."
The agency said without sulfoxaflor, growers could see net revenue losses of up to 50 percent for certain crops.