Oregon Democrats push EPA to justify use of pesticide 'highly toxic' to bees

Oregon Democrats push EPA to justify use of pesticide 'highly toxic' to bees
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Oregon Democrats are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to defend its decision to expand the use of a pesticide considered harmful to bees.

The EPA in July expanded the allowed uses of sulfoxaflor, saying the decision was made with pollinators in mind, as the pesticide is less harmful to bees than other alternatives.

But the agency has previously referred to the pesticide as “highly toxic to bees” — something that a number of Oregon Democrats in Congress had noticed.

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“These new approved uses come at a time when colonies are dying at alarming rates,” Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel House to consider amendment blocking warrantless web browsing surveillance COVID-19 increases importance of implementing reforms to organ donation system MORE and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOregon GOP Senate nominee contradicts own campaign by saying she stands with QAnon Oregon GOP Senate nominee posts video in support of QAnon conspiracy theory We need just recovery for the coronavirus and climate crises MORE said in a letter co-signed with Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerPass the Primary Care Enhancement Act Democrats introduce bill to include cannabis businesses in coronavirus relief Michelle Obama to promote absentee voting MORE, Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioDemocrats to probe Trump's replacement of top Transportation Dept. watchdog Donald Trump is proposing attacks on Social Security and seniors; here is what we should do instead House committee investigating Carnival cruise line's response to coronavirus MORE and Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciWe need to prevent food waste at school Pelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention Scientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule MORE“This is particularly concerning, given that pollinators are an invaluable component of our nation’s food production.”

The lawmakers are asking the EPA to more fully explain the scientific rationale for their decision by Oct. 9, including its risk assessment of the pesticide for pollinators.

A spokesperson for the EPA said it would respond to the letter through appropriate channels.

The letter follows two recent lawsuits from environmental groups who say the EPA relied too heavily on industry studies when approving sulfoxaflor. 

An EPA official told reporters when the new policy was unveiled that “most of the studies that we used were indeed sponsored by industry. That is common practice in the pesticide program.”

EPA also the economic plight of farmers was a factor in its decision. The agency said growers could see net revenue losses of up to 50 percent if they aren't able to use the pesticide.

Sulfoxaflor was banned by a federal court in 2015 in a suit brought by beekeepers, but the EPA has repeatedly granted emergency exemptions that allow farmers to use the pesticide.

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General wrote in a report last year that the agency did not have processes in place to determine how its emergency measures impact human and environmental health.

The Oregon Democrats also pushed the EPA to “reverse the trend of issuing emergency exemptions” that allow important restrictions on the pesticide to be circumvented.

Updated at 2 p.m.