A United States federal court of appeals Thursday struck down federal approval for the insecticide sulfoxaflor, expressing the belief that government agents were acting on incomplete information when the Environmental Protection Agency approved it in 2013. The decision will remove the insecticide from the market.
Several beekeeping organizations brought the case to court after it became obvious that sulfoxaflor is toxic to honeybees. Bee populations have sharply declined over the past few years, especially since sulfoxaflor’s approval in 2013. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the number of honeybee colonies declined by approximately 42 percent between April 2014 and April 2015. This is the second-largest annual drop on record.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision will affect the entire country, prohibiting the use of sulfoxaflor. The decision is an unusual one, as appeals courts rarely overturn EPA decisions regarding pesticides. Nevertheless, we feel the court acted rightly, and we believe the decision will benefit Minnesota’s beekeepers.
Minnesota and the Upper Midwest produce more honey than any other region in the U.S. Disturbingly, declines in the honeybee population have been especially sharp here.
This year, the University of Minnesota is scheduled to begin construction on a new bee and pollinator research lab. Considering the national importance of Midwestern beekeepers and the ongoing need for agricultural insecticides, we encourage University researchers at the new facility to work on developing a safe, effective variety of insecticide that will leave bees unharmed.