Why Is the EPA Allowing Farms to Use Banned Pesticides?

Did you know that the EPA has the authority to allow farms to use banned pesticides? Rules allow the EPA to grant these exceptions on an “emergency” basis, though logic would dictate that the emergency would need to be extreme considering the long-term emergencies that would be created from spreading dangerous chemicals.

However, as the Center for Biological Diversity has discovered, the EPA has been pretty loosey goosey when it comes to approving these exceptions. Over the last six years, the agency has permitted 78 companies/farms to use sulfoxaflor despite the pesticide’s known danger.

In the past, a U.S. appeals court had to block the EPA from allowing sulfoxaflor because of how overwhelmingly toxic it is to bees, particularly amidst a bee die-off. Evidently, the EPA could still grant exceptions, and did so pretty freely, even without sufficient proof of an emergency.

Typically, something like an influx of crop-destroying bugs could constitute an emergency in order to allow for problematic chemicals. Over time, though, the EPA got in the habit of approving most requests and started fast tracking the process for farms to use otherwise banned pesticides without sufficient review.

Paperwork for these “emergencies” did not reflect substantial problems that would warrant the use of sulfoxaflor. Many sites were allowed to continue using the banned pesticide year after year due to the same supposed emergency.

Unsurprisingly, this process lacked transparency. Just eight of the 78 exceptions went through a formal review process in which the public could comment or object to the pesticide’s use. Pretty much all of the applications were approved in closed-door meetings with the EPA taking the agricultural businesses’ word on why they needed sulfoxaflor.

In fact, every single time a farm requested to use sulfoxaflor on either cotton or sorghum (a cereal grain), it was approved. Because bees love sorghum, sulfoxaflor has never been formally allowed on the grain. As for cotton, the EPA exceptions fly in the face of a court ruling that explicitly said the pesticide shouldn’t be used on cotton because there’s demonstrable harm to pollinators.

“This chronic abuse of the emergency approval process has created a shortcut for pesticide companies looking to gain backdoor approval for use of harmful pesticides,” said Stephanie Parent, a leading lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity and coauthor of the report. “This dangerous, secretive practice puts people and wildlife at ongoing risk, and it needs to stop.”

Altogether, the EPA allowed sulfoxaflor on 17.5 million acres of farms. The EPA neglected to research (or at least release any research) as to what kind of damage could be caused by granting this many exceptions.

While it’s no secret that the EPA has been an ecological nightmare since Scott Pruitt took over at the start of 2017, this problem dates back well before Trump administration entered the picture. Shame on an agency that is tasked with safeguarding the environment for bowing to corporate interests with little concern for the consequences.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Caitlin L
Caitlin Labout a month ago


Sue H
Sue Habout a month ago

Epic Fail on the part of this agency. No Protection for us.

Gino C
Past Member about a year ago


Lindsay Kemp
Lindsay Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing. This should not be happening.

Henry M
Henry Mabout a year ago

This shouldn't be allowed. Sign my petition at the link below to tell the USDA to require that all foods grown with pesticides be labeled as such.

Peggy B
Peggy Babout a year ago


Ann B
Ann Babout a year ago

well lets see -to save their well paid jobs AND OF COURSE MONEY--screw the rest of us with the pesticides!!!!!

Ann B
Ann Babout a year ago

flag past member they are a spammer

JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Parisabout a year ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

thanks for sharing