EPA Challenged in Court on Sulfoxaflor

Center for Food Safety Alleges Agency Doesn't Have Evidence to Approve Insecticide

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The Center for Food Safety has challenged EPA's recently approved new uses for the insecticide sulfoxaflor in a petition filed in a federal court Tuesday. (Photo by Michael Coghlan, CC BY-SA 2.0)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The Center for Food Safety has asked a federal court to review EPA's recent approval of the insecticide sulfoxaflor, according to a petition filed Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

The group asked the court to set aside EPA-approved new registrations and the recently restored previous uses for the insecticide, alleging EPA "violated its duties and does not have substantial evidence" to register new uses and amend existing uses.

In addition, the Center for Food Safety argued the agency violated its duties under the Endangered Species Act by "failing to consult with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service."

Sulfoxaflor is used to control piercing and sucking insects such as the sugarcane aphid in sorghum and the tarnished plant bug in cotton. The agency was ordered by a federal court in 2015 to vacate the sulfoxaflor registration because of a lack of data on the effects on bees.

In a July 12, 2019, announcement, EPA said it had enough data to show sulfoxaflor is safe for humans and bees and had granted unconditional registration for new uses of sulfoxaflor on the Transform WG and Closer SC labels. The new uses are alfalfa, corn, cacao, grains (millet, oats), pineapple, sorghum, teff, teosinte and tree plantations. The agency also added back cotton, soybeans, citrus, cucurbits and strawberry.

The restrictions on the registrations granted in October 2016 were also removed.

In May 2016, the agency proposed a new label that excluded crops like cotton and sorghum and imposed spraying restrictions designed to minimize pollinators' exposure to the insecticide.

The Ninth Circuit vacated sulfoxaflor's registration in November 2015 because of pollinator concerns. The court cited a lack of data on possible harm to bees as the reason for ordering EPA to pull the registration.

The EPA then asked Dow AgroSciences (now Corteva Agriscience) for more data on sulfoxaflor.

Bridgette Readel, market development specialist for Corteva Agriscience, said in a statement following the EPA announcement that the approval was much needed.

EPA Assistant Administrator for Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Alexandra Dapolito Dunn said during the announcement that the agency relied on raw data from industry studies in reaching the decision.

Sulfoxaflor is safer than other insecticides because it requires fewer applications, Dunn said.

For years, states have petitioned EPA for emergency exemptions to be allowed to use sulfoxaflor.

In 2019 alone, Dunn said the agency has approved 12 state emergency requests for use in cotton and 14 in sorghum.

In making the decision, Dunn said the agency discovered many growers could see crop losses of 50% or higher without having sulfoxaflor available. Growers will still need to follow state regulations on the insecticide, she said.

Read the petition for review here:

https://www.epa.gov/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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(BAS/CZ)

Todd Neeley