The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) insufficiently tested the pesticide sulfoxaflor before approving its use in 2013. Sulfoxaflor is a type of insecticide known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, which are used on citrus and cotton crops.
Neonicotinoids have grown popular for protecting fruit, vegetables and arable crops against boring and biting pests, including aphids and beetles. But they have been widely accused of harming bees and other pollinators by disrupting their navigation systems, with major impacts on the survival of colonies. They were developed in 1991, and commercial use began in the mid-1990s. Around 2006, commercial beekeepers began reporting colony collapse disorder. The disorder has been reported in commercial colonies all over the world. Several studies have implicated neonics, which are used to kill insects harmful to crops.
Paul Towers, spokesperson for advocacy group Pesticide Action Network, said: “This is the classic pesticide industry shell game. As more science underscores the harms of a pesticide, they shift to newer, less studied products. And it takes regulators years to catch up.”
Greg Loarie, an attorney with Earthjustice discussed the dangers of what has come to be known as “Colony Collapse Disorder” — where entire colonies of bees die off with no obvious cause. “Our country is facing widespread bee colony collapse, and scientists are pointing to pesticides like sulfoxaflor as the cause,” Loarie wrote. “The Court’s decision to overturn approval of this bee-killing pesticide is incredible news for bees, beekeepers, and all of us.”
During a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session, Loarie discussed the importance of the ruling with Reddit users. One commenter asked, “What can the average person do to help bees?”
“First off, when buying ornamental plants for your home garden, make sure that they don’t come pre-treated with neonics,” the attorney wrote. “Unfortunately, many big nurseries are still selling flowers that are sprayed with neonics.”