EPA Approves Sulfoxaflor Registration

Changes Made to Insecticide Registration in Response to Court Decision

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The EPA approved new uses and restored previous uses for the insecticide sulfoxaflor after the agency examined additional data on the chemical's effects on humans and bees. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer photo by Pamela Smith)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Farmers will once again have sulfoxaflor available for use without restriction after the EPA on Friday approved new registrations and restored previous uses for the insecticide. The agency said it has extensive data showing sulfoxaflor is safe for humans and bees.

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.

On Friday, EPA 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 adds back to the labels cotton, soybeans, citrus, cucurbits and strawberry.

In addition, certain restrictions when the registrations were granted in October 2016 are being 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 in San Francisco 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 the EPA approval was much needed.

"Availability of Transform WG insecticide is much welcomed news for soybean growers," she said. "The new and distinct mode of action will play a pivotal role in efforts to inhibit the increasing incidence of insect resistance to current insecticides. Transform will provide soybean growers with a viable and effective alternative." EPA's new registration also includes updated requirements for product labels, which will include crop-specific restrictions and pollinator protection language.

EPA Assistant Administrator for Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Alexandra Dapolito Dunn said on Friday 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.

"We are pleased to say today that our data is among EPA's largest datasets on the effects on bees," she said.

"There are no data gaps. The studies show it disappears from the environment more quickly than alternatives. We conducted a risk assessment, and it demonstrates that when used according to the label, there is no significant risk to human health and lower risk to non-target wildlife when compared to alternatives. Another important point is it is highly selective to pests and less harmful to beneficial insects."

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 still will need to follow state regulations on the insecticide, she said.

"After today an emergency exemption will not be required," she said.

Read more about EPA's decision here: file:///…

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

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Todd Neeley