by Callie

Federal Court Nixes Pesticide

If you ever wanted proof that the EPA regulates pesticides to suit chemical company wishes, this is it. The 9th District U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco revoked the agency’s sloppy approval of a fourth generation neonictinoid made by Dow Agroscience. Not one, but 3 federal judges concurred that the EPA should never have approved the chemical for limited use, let alone unrestricted use due to the toxicity of neonictinoids on bees.

The national beekeepers association is cheering this recent move as a victory for the honeybees… But don’t celebrate for them and our other pollinators just yet. The judges ruling can still be turned into a moot point. Besides – there are a heck of a lot more important pollinators out there than honeybees, which in the U.S. are 90% in captivity. What about the bumblebees who are the most effective¬†tomato pollinator? ¬†Ah, that’s right, honeybees are a billion-dollar industry, and bumblebees refuse to go along with the program. I hope more people than myself realize that we need all the bees to keep Nature alive.

Sulfoxaflor was made to control sucking insect damages to food crops like corn, tomatoes, and citrus. It acts just like regular neonictinoids on insect receptors, making it highly toxic to beneficial pollinators, including honeybees. The chemical was registered with the EPA for use in 3 Dow agrichemicals in 2010, and in 2011 the agency requested further testing be done prior to approval for agricultural application because EPA scientists found the studies’ data submitted as inconclusive. Then in 2012 without any further tests being done or data submitted, the EPA just up and approved sulfoxaflor without limitations other than requiring the label state that the product must not be applied when bees are present during the flowering stage.


The EPA states that sulfoxaflor is far less environmentally dangerous than older chemicals used for the same crop pest control, because those had to be applied more often. This means that there are residual qualities to sulfoxaflor. Bees and pollinators do land on plants that have no blooms present, particularly after rainfall when water is still available on the leaves, and if the spray is effective when not applied to the blooms which turn into fruits – then it is present in the entire plant. Why else would it be applied in anticipation of possible damage instead of a cause and effect correction to a developing situation?

Found in 2 named products made by Dow AG, the Transform WG benefits published on the company’s website say the sulfoxaflor “been designated by the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC) as the sole member of a new subgroup, 4C.” Subgroup giving it the 4th generation neonictinoid identity. The farmer benefits go on to describe Transform as having MINIMAL impact on beneficial insects. Note that it doesn’t say it is safe for good bugs, or that it won’t harm them… the destruction is ‘minimal’. This pesticide is for use on cotton crops.

For fruiting crops, they recommend the pesticide known as Closer SC with the active ingredient of sulfoxaflor. Stated benefits here list speed of action, residual protection, and once again… “minimal impact on beneficial insects.” Despite incomplete testing as discovered by the EPA after the chemical was registered. Even EPA scientists knew that more proof was needed to discover that it would not harm bees – major kingpins in the perpetuity of Earth’s environment.

Once last week’s federal appeals court event, Reuters reports: “In its ruling, the court found that the EPA relied on “flawed and limited data” to approve the unconditional registration of sulfoxaflor, and that approval was not supported by “substantial evidence.”

RT News has this to share: “The EPA used studies and materials provided by Dow to assess the chemical’s effects on bees and other species. Based on insufficient data given to it by Dow, the agency proposed certain conditions on the approval of the chemical, the court found. Yet the EPA went ahead with unconditional registration anyway even though Dow had not met those conditions or offered updated studies, the court said.”

And beneath a headline that included the statement that the judge ‘rips EPA’, we learn that despite the initial request for further testing in 2012 the justices found that – “The EPA and Dow argue that since the studies are inconclusive as to the risks of sulfoxaflor for bees, the studies affirmatively prove that sulfoxaflor does not cause unreasonable adverse effects on bees. Neither logic nor precedent can sustain this position…”

The court went on to state that it was felt that the EPA caved to ‘public pressure’ to approve the pesticides on crops. Public not being folks like you and I, and unlikely the farmers out there trying to bring a harvest, but quite likely Dow itself, because a corporation that makes products isn’t the government (technically), and would therefore fall under the public sector in the eyes of the judicial community.

The products that contain sulfoxaflor were not immediately removed from items for sale to farmers. According to the EPA it would take 45 days for the formal ruling to arrive in writing, and during the waiting period, they are consulting with the Department of Justice on how to proceed from here. And Dow Agriscience? They’re scrambling to conduct the testing requested by EPA scientists 4-5 years ago.

As of Wednesday, the EU has been urged to follow the U.S. federal court’s ruling on sulfoxaflor pesticides too. And while the ruling means that no pesticides containing this chemical can legally be applied in the U.S. – the crop season is coming to a close in a huge portion of the country. Which means while some winter production areas like Florida and California would affect Dow’s product sales, it’s the slow season on a national basis. By spring, they might be able to overturn the court’s ability to cancel their EPA approval – they’re already looking into loopholes to dive through to get the September court ruling overturned.


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Only strangers knock on the door at Callie's house. People who know her don't bother if the sun is shining - they know to look in the garden.