EPA Authorizes Controversial Pesticide to Fight Orange-Tree-Killing Bacteria in Florida

According to a news release from Beyond Pesticides, the EPA yesterday granted Florida farmers a 2½-year emergency exemption to use a powerful pesticide known to have a side effect of killing bees.

Clothiandin is a neonicotinoid, a type of pesticide that has been linked to declines in honey-bee populations and suspended in the European Union.

The "EPA issued the 2½ year emergency permit without subjecting its decision to any public comment," Beyond Pesticides says.

That's awful, but Florida farmers have been having a rough go of it since 2005, when a pest called the Asian citrus psyllid showed up here. The tiny bug "carries a bacteria which attacks a tree's vascular system, eventually killing it, according to a shocking article in the Atlantic, which says that unless this is stopped, we could have a Florida without oranges. There has been about a $1 billion-per-year drop in production since 2007.

Beyond Pesticides' executive director, Jay Feldman, said, "EPA needs to assist in stopping the deadly use of pesticides that harm bees, butterflies, and birds with sustainable practices, rather than imperil pollinators with its decisions.

"We understand the immediate chemical needs of chemical-intensive agriculture for increasingly toxic and persistent chemicals but urge EPA to help stop the treadmill, lest it allow irreversible harm to the environment, biodiversity, and human health."

His group is asking the EPA to require that growers adopt a management plan to apply clothianidin. The group is also party to a lawsuit alleging the EPA failed to review and restrict clothianidin properly.