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.
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.”