LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- EPA released a draft biological opinion on the insecticide sulfoxaflor on Tuesday, finding the chemical is likely to adversely affect certain listed species and critical habitats, the agency announced in a news release.
The draft opinion is part of an ongoing review of agriculture chemicals and their potential effects on endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Once the draft opinion is posted to the federal register, it will trigger a 60-day public comment period.
"EPA has begun discussions with the registrant to determine what additional mitigation measures could be implemented in the near term to protect listed species and critical habitats," the agency said.
"In response, the registrant recently proposed additional amendments to sulfoxaflor product labels that include certain mitigation measures."
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 its effects on bees.
EPA said it evaluated the effects of sulfoxaflor on more than 1,700 listed species and more than 800 designated critical habitats.
The draft opinion found that without mitigation, sulfoxaflor will cause no effect to 36% of listed species and 52% of critical habitats; may affect but is not likely to adversely affect 30% of listed species and 35% of critical habitats.
On the flip side, EPA said the chemical is likely to adversely affect and would cause jeopardy to 7% of listed species and would adversely modify 4% of critical habitats.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service will make the final determination as to whether sulfoxaflor use could lead to jeopardy or adverse modification.
The EPA was sued in 2019 by the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity for failing to conduct a review.
In October 2020, EPA asked a court to allow the agency to correct acknowledged mistakes in the sulfoxaflor registration.
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 also were 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 U.S. Court of Appeals for 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. EPA at the time asked Dow AgroSciences (now Corteva Agriscience) for more data on sulfoxaflor.
For years, states have petitioned EPA for emergency exemptions to be allowed to use sulfoxaflor.
Read more on DTN:
"Court Rejects EPA Review on Sulfoxaflor," https://www.dtnpf.com/….
"Enviro Group Opposes EPA on Sulfoxaflor," https://www.dtnpf.com/….
Read EPA's draft opinion here: https://www.regulations.gov/….
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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