U.S. Court Cancels Sulfoxaflor Registrations

A United States appeals court on Thursday said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency erred in its approval of Dow AgroSciences’ sulfoxaflor insecticide, canceling the registration, according to a Reuters story.

In the ruling, the court said that EPA’s decision to register sulfoxaflor was based on “flawed and limited data” and was “not supported by substantial evidence.” The court vacated the registration because “given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risked more potential environmental harm than vacating it.”

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“Bees are essential to pollinate important crops and in recent years have been dying at alarming rates,” Judge Mary M. Schroeder wrote for a three-judge panel.

The lawsuit was filed in 2013 against the EPA by several organizations representing the honey and beekeeping industries. According to Reuters, the groups challenged the EPA approval of insecticides containing sulfoxaflor, saying studies have shown they are highly toxic to honeybees. Sulfoxaflor is a neonicotinoid subclass, according to the ruling.

Responding to the ruling, Dow AgroSciences said it “respectfully disagrees with the Ninth Circuit’s conclusion that EPA’s registration of products containing sulfoxaflor should be vacated.” The company said it will work with EPA to implement the order and to “promptly complete additional regulatory work to support the registration of the products,” and added that it is also considering its “available options to challenge the Court’s decision.”

The company first sought approval for sulfoxaflor in 2010 for use in three different products under brand names including Transform and Closer.

The ruling comes despite findings that multiple factors have been found to influence and negatively impact pollinator health, namely the Varroa mite. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA released a comprehensive “Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health.” The report summarizes findings from the National Stakeholders Conference held in October 2012, which brought together beekeepers, scientists, representatives of conservation groups, beekeeping supply manufacturers, commodity groups, pesticide manufacturers and government representatives to discuss potential solutions for improving honey bee health. The report identifies the Varroa mite as the “single most detrimental pest of honey bees.”