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Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Author:

JULY 8, 2013


National beekeeping organizations along with the National Honey Bee Advisory Board have come together in an attempt to protect the bee industry by an appeal against EPA for its approval of the pesticide Sulfoxaflor, shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees, and other insect pollinators. Sulfoxaflor is a new chemistry, and the first of a newly assigned sub-class of pesticides in the “neonicotinoid” class of pesticides, which some scientists across the globe have linked as a potential factor to widespread and massive bee colony collapse. The case is filed as the beekeeping industry across the country struggles for survival, and faces the costly effects of pesticides upon their businesses.

Bee. (NASA)

The pesticide Sulfoxaflor has been shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees, and other insect pollinators.(NASA)

The National Pollinator Defense Fund, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Beekeeping Federation, and beekeepers Bret Adee, Jeff Anderson and Thomas R. Smith have filed an appeal against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting changes needed in the Sulfoxaflor label, the Biological Economic Assessment Division (BEAD) assessment of the value of pollinators and their established habits, and the EPA’s Risk Assessment Process. These changes would acknowledge pollinator’s critical role in the U.S. food supply, and ensure that decisions regarding new pesticides comply with applicable laws.

Sulfoxaflor was granted a full registration by EPA for most crops, many of which require pollinators. Many other registered crops are utilized by pollinators, including honey bees, as forage. Based on the approved registration, pollinators, especially honey bees, may potentially be exposed numerous times by labelled Sulfoxaflor applications as honey bees are moved across the country to pollinate crops, produce the nation’s supply of honey, and recuperate from the rigors of pollination.

The groups are being represented by the public interest law organization Earthjustice. The appeal process through the courts is the only mechanism open to challenge EPA’s decision; it is commonly used by commodity groups to rectify inadequate pesticide labeling.

The following are their statements:

Attorney Janette Brimmer of Earthjustice: “Our country is facing widespread bee colony collapse, and scientists are pointing to pesticides like Sulfoxaflar as the cause. The effects will be devastating to our nation’s food supply and also to the beekeeping industry, which is struggling because of toxic pesticides. This lawsuit against the EPA is attempt by the beekeepers to save their suffering industry. The EPA has failed them. And the EPA’s failure to adequately consider impacts to pollinators from these new pesticides is wreaking havoc on an important agricultural industry and gives short shrift to the requirements of the law.”

Jeff Anderson, beekeeper: “EPA’s approval of Sulfoxaflor with no enforceable label protections for bees will speed our industry’s demise. EPA is charged under FIFRA with protecting non-target beneficial insects, not just honeybees. EPA’s Sulfoxaflor registration press release says, ‘… the final label includes robust terms for protecting pollinators …’ This is a bold-faced lie! There is absolutely no mandatory language on the label that protects pollinators. Further, the label’s advisory language leads spray applicators to believe that notifying a beekeeper of a planned application, absolves them of their legal responsibility in FIFRA to not kill pollinators.”

Bret Adee, President of the Board of the National Pollinator Defense Fund: “The EPA is charged with preventing unreasonable risk to our livestock, our livelihoods, and most importantly, the nation’s food supply. This situation requires an immediate correction from the EPA to ensure the survival of commercial pollinators, native pollinators, and the plentiful supply of seed, fruits, vegetables, and nuts that pollinators make possible.”

Randy Verhoek, President of the Board of the American Honey Producers Association: “The bee industry has had to absorb an unreasonable amount of damage in the last decade. Projected losses for our industry this year alone are over $337 million. While not all of the losses are due solely to pesticides, there are strong correlations between pesticide misuse killing bees and impairing colony performance.”

George Hansen, President of the Board of the American Beekeeping Federation: “The honey bee industry is very concerned since the EPA has failed to adequately address our comments about realistic risk to pollinators posed by sulfoxaflor. The EPA continues to use flawed and outdated assessments of long term and sub-lethal damage to honey bees.”

Rick Smith, beekeeper and farmer: “The beekeeping industry has proactively engaged EPA to address concerns for many years. The industry is seriously concerned the comments it submitted during the Sulfoxaflor registration comment period were not adequately addressed before EPA granted full registration. The sun is now rising on a day where pollinators are no longer plentiful. They require protection 365 days a year in order to be abundant at the critical moment their pollination service is required by the plant. Applying pesticides in a manner which does not expose pollinators during the period a pesticide is acutely toxic, and, knowing sub-lethal and delayed effects, are the cornerstones in their protection. EPA’s assessment process has chosen not to use long established and accepted published information concerning pollinator foraging habits in the Environment Hazards Section of the Sulfoxaflor label.”

Sulfoxaflor Fact Sheet

  • Chemical name: Sulfoxaflor; cyanamide, N-[methyloxido[1-[6-(trifluoromethyl)-3-pyridinyl]ethyl] ?4 –sulfanylidene]
  • IRAC MoA Classification: Group 4C: nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists, sulfoxamines
  • Mode of Action: Sulfoxaflor is an insecticide that acts through a unique interaction with the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in insects. While Sulfoxaflor acts on the same receptor as the neonicotinoids, it is classified as its own subgroup (4C). It is an agonist of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) and exhibits excitatory responses including tremors, followed by paralysis and mortality in target insects. The structure of Sulfoxaflor makes it stable in the presence of monooxygenase enzyme that was shown to degrade a variety of neonicotinoids in IRAC Group 4A, resulting in a lack of cross-resistance demonstrated in laboratory experiments.
  • Registrant: DOW AgroSciences LLC
  • Proposed products: Sulfoxaflor is being registered as EPA Reg. 62719-631 (Sulfoxaflor Technical), 62719-625 (Transform WG), and EPA Reg. 62719-623 (Closer SC). Methods of application include aerial and ground broadcast, in addition to chemigation for potato.
  • Additional background information from the National Pollinator Defense Fund: Sulfoxaflor has the same constellation of properties as many other systemic insecticides that have been shown to cause acute and sub-lethal effects, including:
    1. High acute toxicity to bees.
    2. Sufficient water solubility to permit systemic uptake by the plant, and be expressed in pollen and nectar, as indicated by some of the studies the EPA evaluated.
    3. Sufficient persistence in the environment that would permit pollinator exposures from ingestion of nectar and pollen from treated plants.

The EPA is required by FIFRA to determine that a pesticide does not pose an unreasonable risk to the environment or to economic interests such as that of the bee industry.

The EPA’s testing did not adequately examine the impact of acute and sub-lethal poisoning of adult honey bees, brood, bee life span, in light the dynamics of the colony organism. The EPA’s reviewed research and analysis of bee foraging behavior and habits is being questioned based on long accepted publications; the Agency lacked the necessary data on how Sulfoxaflor remains systemically absorbed in the crop tissue, and how that may harm bees and bee colonies long term subjected to levels below the lethal toxicity level to adult bees; and the EPA failed entirely to look at how differing amounts of pesticides affect pollinators over time.

Bee kills since March 2013 as reported to the National Pollinator Defense Fund:

  • Florida: 1300 hives
  • Minnesota: 2312 hives
  • Utah: 630 hives
  • New York: 300 hives

Since 2006 an estimated 10 million bee hives at an approximate current value of $200 each have been lost and the total replacement cost of $2 billion dollars has been borne by the beekeepers alone (J. Frazier, unpublished).
(Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee health, USDA and EPA, report released May 2, 2013, page 1.)

“Annually for example in the United States between $20 billion and $30 billion, that’s B, billion with B dollars of our agricultural production is dependent on pollination.” Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
(Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health by USDA and EPA, May 2, 2013, WITS-USDA Office of Communication, page 3.)

“California agriculture reaps $937 million to $2.4 billion per year in economic value from wild, free-living bee species …” “About one-third of the value of California agriculture comes from pollinator-dependent crops, representing a net value of $11.7 billion per year… However, the new study estimated that wild pollinators residing in California’s natural habitats, chiefly rangelands, provide 35–39 percent, or more than one-third, of all pollination “services” to the state’s crops.”
(Wild Pollinators worth up to $2.4 billion to farmers, Ann Brody Guy, College of Natural Resources at Berkeley, 6-20-2011,

“For fruit and nut crops, pollination can be a grower’s only real chance to increase yield. The extent of pollination dictates the maximum number of fruits. Post-pollination inputs, whether growth regulators, pesticides, water, or fertilizer, are actually designed to prevent losses and preserve quality rather than increase yield.”
(Bee Benefits to Agriculture, Kevin J. Hackett, ARS National Program Leader, 3-2004, Forum.)

“When honey bees interact with wild native bees, they are up to five times more efficient in pollinating sunflowers than when native bees are not present …” “ In fields where wild bees were rare, a single visit by a honey bee produced an average of three seeds. But as wild bee numbers increased, so did the number of seeds produced per honey bee visit, up to an average of 15 seeds per visit … by provoking honey bees to alter their behavior, wild bees were indirectly responsible for an additional 40 percent of the pollination. Honey bees on their own provided just 53% of the pollination.”
(Wild bees make honey bees better pollinators, Liese Greensfelder, UC Berkeley news release (Study author was Sarah Greenleaf, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences issue on Sept. 12, 2006 an EPA funded study), 8-28-2006,

“The researchers estimate that up to 40 percent of some essential nutrients provided by fruits and vegetables could be lost without pollinators.”
(NCEAS working group produces study showing how vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables depend on pollinators, National Center for ecological Analysis and Synthesis, 6-22-2011, (Univ. of Calif .Santa Barbara news release))

Michele Colopy, National Pollinator Defense Fund, (832) 727-9492
Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2007
Friday, February 19th, 2010 | Author:

What would Rachel Carson say to this story? The business publications are an echo-chamber of headlines reading “procedural issues” were what made spirotetramat illegal to sell, while other blogs and newspapers focus of the press release’s spin (harm to bees). The monopoly market publications would like to tell their readers/advertisers that it wasn’t banned because of proven harm to the pollinators and ecosystems (the same ecosystems that support the damned economy in the first place), no no… it was banned because the EPA and BayerCrop Science broke the laws, a.k.a. “procedures,” and got busted!  Why don’t they say “legal issues lead to ban of pesticide” or “secret law breaking discovered, leads to pesticide ban” or “NRDC and Xerces were watching while we tried to sell poison without EPA/public approval and they blew the whistle on behalf of science and public laws designed to protect the People from the Corporation”? (see evidence of eco-chamber) This story reveals the fraud and deceit that is Bayer CropScience and revolving door EPA cronies. It’s so easy to sell their poison and bio-warfare in China and Brazil, because those countries don’t have public oversight like the U.S.A. has with the EPA – Environmental Protection Agency. It’s time to review and renew our appreciation and understanding of our EPA. This story is really about the Xerces Society and National Resource Defense Council forcing the EPA to follow its own rules and public protection “procedures.” Had it not been for them, the EPA and Bayer CropScience would have simply violated the law in secrecy and ineptitude, exactly what Bare CrapScience wants to see happen, IMHO.Important to note that well-known commercial beekeepers Dave Hackenberg (and Dave Mendes?) worked with Bayer CropScience to field test the effects of spirotetramat on honeybees in Florida.  Click image for PDF of report.Hackenberg-Bayer CropScience spirotetramat Field TestHere’s a nice footnote from the Judge Cote’s ruling:

 It is undisputed that the plaintiffs have standing to bring this case.  See Connecticut v. Am. Elec. Power Co., 582 F.3d 309, 339 (2d Cir. 2009) (“An association has standing to bring suit on behalf of its members when: (a) its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (b) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization’s purpose; and (c) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation ofthe lawsuit.” (citation omitted)).

Judge Pulls Pesticide After Finding Impacts on Bees Inadequately Evaluated by EPA(Beyond Pesticides, January 4, 2010) – A pesticide that could be dangerously toxic to America’s honey bees must be pulled from store shelves as a result of a suit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Xerces Society. In an order issued in December, a federal court in New York invalidated EPA’s approval of the pesticide spirotetramat (manufactured by Bayer CropScience under the trade names Movento and Ultor) and ordered the agency to reevaluate the chemical in compliance with the law. The court’s order goes into effect on January 15, 2010, and makes future sales of Movento illegal in the United States.“This sends EPA and Bayer back to the drawing board to reconsider the potential harm to bees caused by this new pesticide,” said NRDC Senior Attorney Aaron Colangelo. “EPA admitted to approving the pesticide illegally, but argued that its violations of the law should have no consequences. The Court disagreed and ordered the pesticide to be taken off the market until it has been properly evaluated. Bayer should not be permitted to run what amounts to an uncontrolled experiment on bees across the country without full consideration of the consequences.”In June 2008, EPA approved Movento for nationwide use on hundreds of different crops, including apples, pears, peaches, oranges, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, almonds, and spinach. The approval process went forward without the advance notice and opportunity for public comment that is required by federal law and EPA’s own regulations. In addition, EPA failed to evaluate fully the potential damage to the nation’s already beleaguered bee populations or conduct the required analysis of the pesticide’s economic, environmental, and social costs.Beekeepers and scientists have expressed concern over Movento’s potential impact on beneficial insects such as honey bees. The pesticide impairs the insect’s ability to reproduce. EPA’s review of Bayer’s scientific studies found that trace residues of Movento brought back to the hive by adult bees could cause “significant mortality” and “massive perturbation” to young honeybees (larvae). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops grown in America. USDA also claims that one out of every three mouthfuls of food in the typical American diet has a connection to bee pollination. Yet bee colonies in the United States have seen significant declines in recent years due to a combination of stressors, almost certainly including insecticide exposure. “This case underscores the need for us to re-examine how we evaluate the impact of pesticides and other chemicals in the environment,” said Mr. Colangelo. “In approving Movento, EPA identified but ignored potentially serious harms to bees and other pollinators. We are in the midst of a pollinator crisis, with more than a third of our colonies disappearing in recent years. Given how important these creatures are to our food supply, we simply cannot look past these sorts of problems.”View the court decision here.Read Beyond Pesticides’ read factsheet: Pollinators and Pesticides: Escalating crisis demands action and Backyard Beekeeping: Providing pollinator habitat one yard at a time. See more information on threats to honey bees at NRDC.