EPA Bans Sulfoxaflor

Growers May Use Existing Stocks Up

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
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Growers facing damage from the sugarcane aphid, such as the field above, will no longer be able to use Transform WG after the EPA issued a ban on all future sales on Nov. 12. (Photo courtesy Raul Villanueva, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension)

ST. LOUIS (DTN) -- On Nov. 12, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final cancellation order on sulfoxaflor, the active ingredient in several insecticides produced by Dow AgroSciences, including Transform WG.

Growers may use up any products they own containing sulfoxaflor (see the list here: http://1.usa.gov/…), but the products may no longer be sold or distributed by Dow or anyone else.

The EPA's ban was prompted by a ruling from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in September, which stated that the agency's original registration of sulfoxaflor in 2013 was "based on flawed and limited data" and demanded that agency "obtain further studies and data regarding the effects of sulfoxaflor on bees."

The ban is a blow to sorghum producers, who use Transform WG to control a troublesome new pest known as the sugarcane aphid. The pest began devastating sorghum acres in Texas in 2013 and rapidly spread as far north as Kansas and as far east as the Carolinas over the next two years. Transform and a Bayer insecticide called Sivanto are the only two products available for sorghum growers battling this aphid.

Transform was originally registered in 2013 to control sucking and piercing insects like aphids and plant bugs in soybeans, canola, cotton and potatoes. By 2015, the EPA had also issued Section 18 emergency use exemptions for Transform to 13 states to control the sugarcane aphid.

"Transform has been an important tool for sorghum farmers across the nation to combat sugarcane aphids," National Sorghum Producers Past Chairman J.B. Stewart said in a press release. "[A]nd as an organization, we will work as hard as we can to ensure the product is available next year through the Section 18 process. NSP also stands ready to support Dow AgroSciences and the EPA in re-registering this essential product."

"This court is known for making rulings that align with activist organizations at the expense of agriculture," Stewart continued, "and we will continue to fight to keep products available for our producers that help them remain profitable."

The lawsuit that inspired the federal court ruling against sulfoxaflor was brought by a coalition of commercial beekeeping trade groups and individual commercial beekeepers, called the Pollinator Stewardship Council and represented by Earthjustice.

The council argued that the EPA granted unconditional registration to sulfoxaflor with insufficient environmental data. The court agreed and wrote that "given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA's registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it."

"EPA will not second-guess the court's conclusion that the registrations at issue in the case were not supported by substantial evidence," the agency wrote in its cancellation order.

Dow has vowed to work with the EPA to re-register the insecticide, but maintains that no danger exists to pollinators.

"Four full years of widespread U.S. product use -- with additional use in Canada, Australia and other nations -- have demonstrated excellent sulfoxaflor performance worldwide with no noted adverse effects on pollinators," the company wrote in a press release.

You can find the EPA's cancellation order here: http://1.usa.gov/….

Read the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling here: http://bit.ly/….

Dow's response to the cancellation order can be found here: http://bit.ly/….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

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Emily Unglesbee