For Immediate Release, February 1, 2022

Contact:

Nathan Donley, (971) 717-6406, ndonley@biologicaldiversity.org

EPA to Consider ‘Emergency’ Use of Bee-Killing Pesticide Clothianidin on Florida Oranges for Ninth Straight Year

WASHINGTON— The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it is considering granting “emergency” approval of a bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticide for use on as many as 125,000 acres of Florida citrus crops, including oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons and limes.

If granted, this would mark the ninth straight year that emergency exemptions of clothianidin have been granted for its use on bee-attractive citrus trees in Florida to target the Asian citrus psyllid, which is the vector for citrus greening disease. The state is seeking what is presumably retroactive approval to apply up to more than 50,000 pounds of the pesticide from Jan. 14 to Oct. 31, 2022.

There are currently 16 different “recommended” insecticides approved to combat the insect in Florida alone, including three other neonics: imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and sulfoxaflor, according to the University of Florida.

“The true emergency here is the need to change the EPA’s growing habit of granting so-called emergency uses of pesticides that haven’t been approved as safe by the agency’s normal review process,” said Nathan Donley, environmental health science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “By routinely handing out emergency exemptions, the EPA has made a joke of the pesticide-approval process that’s supposed to protect people and wildlife from harmful chemicals.”

The EPA has routinely allowed emergency exemptions for predictable and chronic situations that occur over many consecutive years. Emergency exemptions allow the use of pesticides that are either not approved at all or are approved for some uses but prohibited for certain other uses.

In 2019 the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General released a report finding that the agency’s practice of routinely granting “emergency” approval for pesticides across millions of acres does not effectively measure risks to human health or the environment.

The EPA’s widespread abuse of this process was chronicled in the Center’s report, Poisonous Process: How the EPA’s Chronic Misuse of ‘Emergency’ Pesticide Exemptions Increases Risks to Wildlife.

The Center followed that report with a legal petition calling for the EPA to limit emergency exemptions to two years as a way to prohibit some of the more egregious abuses of the process. Two years later the EPA has not substantively responded to the petition or taken any steps to rein in the abuse of the emergency exemptions.

The petitioned-for emergency use for the neonicotinoid clothianidin comes as the EPA is in the process of reapproving multiple neonicotinoids for non-emergency use on some of the most widely grown crops in the country. The EPA pesticide office’s proposed decision stands in sharp contrast with the science-based decisions in Europe and Canada to ban or highly restrict neonics for outdoor use.

Authors of a major scientific review of the catastrophic decline of insects have said that a “serious reduction in pesticide usage” is key to preventing the extinction of up to 41% of the world’s insects in the next few decades.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.