Opening Brief Fights 2019 Approval of Pesticide That Allegedly Kills Bees

The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity, plaintiffs in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lawsuit, filed their opening brief on Tuesday challenging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s approval of Sulfoxaflor, which they purport kills bees which are needed for pollination. 

“Our bees and pollinators are dying, and yet EPA went ahead and allowed another toxic insecticide to be sprayed across America without any care for their well-being. We are in court to ensure that our bees can have a chance to survive,” said Sylvia Wu, attorney for the Center for Food Safety in a press release

The lawsuit, along with another filed by the Pollinator Stewardship Council and the American Beekeeping Federation that is also before the Ninth Circuit, claims that the EPA should not have approved the use of the pesticide on crops that attract pollinators. Tuesday’s brief claimed that the EPA did not consider the potential harms of sulfoxaflor on endangered bumblebees and other pollinators. The EPA purportedly admitted in October 2020 that it had not conducted an assessment of harm from the pesticide to bumblebees, which is required under the Endangered Species Act. 

Stephanie Parent, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity said in the same press release, “in the midst of an insect apocalypse, it’s just astounding that the EPA is continuing to fight to expand the use of this poison and can’t even be bothered to consider its impacts on the nation’s most vulnerable bees and butterflies.” 

According to the Center for Food Safety, the EPA approved sulfoxaflor in 2013 but the approval was later vacated by the Ninth Circuit because it did not follow the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. When Sulfoxaflor was approved again in 2019, the range of crops was expanded to include crops that attract bees like strawberries, squash, and citrus. 

The deadline for the EPA’s answering brief is March 30. On Wednesday the Ninth Circuit denied a request from the defendant for an extension of time to file the brief since the case is expedited. 

The plaintiffs are represented by their own lawyers and the defendant is represented by the Department of Justice. DOW Agrosciences which intervened in the lawsuit in favor of the defendant is represented by Crowell & Moring