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EPA Restores Sulfoxaflor Approval for Cotton and Other Crops; Ensures Pollinator Protection

EPA Restores Sulfoxaflor Approval for Cotton and Other Crops; Ensures Pollinator Protection

In a July 12 announcement, the U.S. EPA is restoring long-term approval for the insecticide sulfoxaflor – a uniquely designed insecticide that targets piercing/sucking insect pests such as aphids and plant bugs with fewer environmental impacts.

Sulfoxaflor is commercially used in cotton, grain sorghum and other crops under the brand name Transform.

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Originally registered in May 2013, the product approval was vacated by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015 after pollinator advocates petitioned for review of the registration. In 2016, EPA approved registration for sulfoxaflor use on crops that did not attract bees and included additional interim application restrictions while new data on bees were being obtained.

Following an extensive risk analysis – including the review of one of EPA’s largest datasets on the effects of a pesticide on bees – the newly-announced registration for sulfoxaflor restores previous uses, adds new uses and removes certain application restrictions for use in cotton, alfalfa, corn, grains (millet, oats), sorghum, citrus, cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, watermelons, some gourds), soybeans, strawberries, tree plantations, cacao, teff and teosinite.

EPA’s registration also includes updated requirements for product labels, which will include crop-specific restrictions and pollinator protection language.

“EPA is providing long-term certainty for U.S. growers to use an important tool to protect crops and avoid potentially significant economic losses, while maintaining strong protection for pollinators,” said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in making the announcement.

Dunn noted that the target pests for sulfoxaflor cause significant economic loss for growers and that few viable alternatives are available for effective management of these pests.

The National Cotton Council (NCC) issued a statement of appreciation for EPA’s decision to again make sulfoxaflor fully available for use on cotton.

“EPA has been diligent in requesting new studies of sulfoxaflor use on cotton and other crops that provided additional data for the agency’s scientific review per court order,” said NCC Chairman Mike Tate. “The NCC will continue to engage EPA on crop protection product registrations and other regulatory matters that affect the efficient production of cotton.”

As part of EPA’s data review since 2016, the NCC submitted comments for the proposed registration decision for cotton, stating that sulfoxaflor was part of a new insecticide class that was safer for bees and other pollinators. Specifically, the NCC urged EPA to consider that there is no supporting documentation for the position that if cotton blooms are present, honeybees are present – especially not at enough densities to present loss of bee colonies.

In announcing the approval, EPA noted that sulfoxaflor’s unique mode of action is a valuable Integrated Pest Management tool for combatting pesticide resistance – a key point that the NCC made in its comment submission.

“Federal registration of Transform WG insecticide is welcome news for all Mid-South growers,” said Darrin Malone, Market Development Specialist, Corteva Agriscience. “Having Transform as an effective control option provides growers with a much-needed, long-overdue product that effectively controls yield-robbing tarnished plant bug and aphids. The unique proven chemistry provides Mid-South growers with an essential option to better manage resistance, which is especially common in this geography.”