Quantcast

EPA Approves Another Pesticide Highly Toxic to Bees

Flying in the face of recent science demonstrating that pollinator populations are declining, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made the decision to unconditionally register another pesticide that is known to be highly toxic to bees—almost one year after the EPA registered sulfoxaflor, disregarding concerns from beekeepers and environmental groups.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The announcement, posted in the Federal Register on Wednesday, set tolerances for the pesticide cyantraniliprole in foods ranging from almonds and berries, to leafy vegetables, onions and milk. The EPA establishes the allowable limit of the chemical residue, called tolerances, based on what the EPA considers "acceptable" risk. The EPA’s ruling details that “there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide residue,” despite all evidence that cyantraniliprole is toxic to bees and harmful to mammals.

In July 2013, beekeepers filed suit against EPA for their decision to register sulfoxaflor when it failed to demonstrate that it will not cause any "unreasonable adverse effects on the environment" as required by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Several comments were submitted by concerned beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups, like Beyond Pesticides, during the public comment period that stated that approval of a cyantriliprole. The pesticide would only exacerbate the problems faced by an already tenuous honey bee industry and further decimate bee populations. However, instead of denying or suspending registration in the face of dire pollinator losses, the EPA has chosen to register another insecticide that is toxic to bees, dismissing concerns regarding bee health in its response, and setting itself up for further litigation.

Cyantraniliprole is a systemic insecticide that works by impairing the regulation of muscle contractions causing paralysis and eventual death in insects. Beyond its impact to target pests—which include sucking and chewing insects such as whiteflies and thrips—the EPA’s most disturbing conclusions relate to the impact of cyantraniliprole on the livers of mammals: “With repeated dosing, consistent findings of mild to moderate increases in liver weights across multiple species (rats, mice and dogs) are observed. Dogs appear to be more sensitive than rats and mice…show[ing] progressive severity with increased duration of exposure.”

The EPA notes that cyantraniliprole also alters the stability of the thyroid as tested on laboratory rats as a result of enhanced metabolism of the thyroid hormones by the liver. Although the agency states that “cyantraniliprole is not a direct thyroid toxicant,” any indirect effects on thyroid function are likely to disrupt the endocrine system. Given that its current endocrine disruptor screening program (EDSP) is currently still in the process of validating tests, the EPA’s registration of a new active ingredient that shows a propensity for endocrine disruption is cause for alarm.

In addition to these findings, the EPA has registered cyantraniliprole as a seed treatment although it is considered “highly toxic on acute and oral contact basis” for bees. The EPA is aware that pesticide-treated seeds directly threaten foraging bees and other non-target organisms, which are exposed to contaminated dust plumes during planting. Studies have documented high bee mortality following seed sowing and exposure to contaminated dust from agricultural fields. Moreover, the EPA acknowledges the need to reduce fugitive toxic dust. However, with emerging science increasingly attributing pesticide exposures as one of the major causes of pollinator declines and the recent precautionary measures taken in the European Union to ban the use of pesticides known to impact bees, the EPA’s registration of cyantraniliprole raises serious concerns.

Beekeepers nationwide have experienced honey bee losses of more than 40 percent over the 2012/2013 winter period—2013/2014 winter losses are likely to be released soon—with some beekeepers reporting losses of more than 70 percent, far exceeding the normal rate of 10 to 15 percent. Some have even been driven out of business. Current estimates of the number of surviving hives in the U.S. show that these colonies may not be able to meet the future pollination demands of agricultural crops.

The EPA’s approach to registration reinforces the urgent need for a national transition to organic. The takeaway for organic, as it grows beyond its current $35 billion market share, is the need for rigorous science-based decision making that requires precaution on the allowance of chemical products in the face of hazards and scientific uncertainty. We must keep in mind the underlying standards of the organic rule, which requires that practices “maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances.”

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

 

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Business
velkr0 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Texas Supreme Court Rules Cities Cannot Ban Plastic Bags

The Texas Supreme Court struck down the city of Laredo's plastic bag ban—a decision that will likely overturn similar bans in about a dozen other cities, including Austin, Fort Stockton and Port Aransas.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Ryan Zinke visits Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota on May 25. Sherman Hogue / U.S. Dept. of the Interior

Report: Trump Admin. Suppressing Media Access of Government Scientists

A new Trump administration protocol requires U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists to run interview requests with the Department of the Interior, its parent agency, before speaking to journalists, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The move is a departure from past media practices that allowed government scientists to quickly respond to journalists' inquiries, according to unnamed USGS employees interviewed by the Times.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Icebergs calving from an ice shelf in West Antarctica. NASA / GSFC / Jefferson Beck / CC BY-SA 2.0

Good News From Antarctica: Rising Bedrock Could Save Vulnerable Ice Sheet

After last week's disturbing news that ice melt in Antarctica has tripled in the last five years, another study published Thursday offers some surprising good news for the South Pole and its vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

The study, published in Science by an international research team, found that the bedrock below the WAIS is rising, a process known as "uplift," at record rates as melting ice removes weight, potentially stabilizing the ice sheet that scientists feared would be lost to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
Soybeans with cupped leaves, a symptom of dicamba injury. University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Dicamba Damage Roars Back for Third Season in a Row

University weed scientists have reported roughly 383,000 acres of soybean injured by a weedkiller called dicamba so far in 2018, according to University of Missouri plant sciences professor, Kevin Bradley.

Dicamba destroys mostly everything in its path except the crops that are genetically engineered (GE) to resist it. The drift-prone chemical can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring non-target fields. Plants exposed to the chemical are left wrinkled, cupped or stunted in growth.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Memphis Meats

FDA Takes First Steps to Regulating Lab-Grown Meat

By Dan Nosowitz

Lab-grown meat—also known as cultured meat or in vitro meat—has long been enticing for its potential environmental, social and economic benefits.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Scott Pruitt speaking at meeting at the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC, on Jan. 17. Lance Cheung / USDA

Breaking: Sierra Club Demands Pruitt’s Emails After Only 1 Disclosed by EPA

As part of ongoing litigation, the Sierra Club has demanded that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) search Scott Pruitt's personal email accounts for work-related emails, or certify clearly and definitively that the administrator has never used personal email for work purposes. The demand comes on the heels of a successfully litigated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's email and other communications with all persons and parties outside the executive branch. These facts were first reported in Politico early this morning.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals

Iceland Flouts Global Ban to Slaughter First Protected Fin Whale of New Hunting Season

Iceland's multi-millionaire rogue whaler Kristján Loftsson and his company Hvalur hf have resumed their slaughter of endangered fin whales in blunt defiance of the international ban on commercial whaling.

The hunt is Iceland's first in three years and marks the start of a whaling season that could see as many as 239 of these majestic creatures killed.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Life- Trac / CC BY-SA 3.0

Farm Bill With Huge Giveaways to Pesticide Industry Passes House

A farm bill that opponents say would harm endangered species, land conservation efforts, small-scale farmers and food-stamp recipients passed the U.S. House of Representatives 213 to 211, with every House Democrat and 20 Republicans voting against it, The Center for Biological Diversity reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!