Great news, Green Monsters! If any of you are concerned about the increasingly grave plight of honeybees in the U.S., you can breathe a little easier now, as the Ninth Court of Appeals in San Francisco, Cal., has just overturned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s crazy decision to approve the use of harmful neonicotinoid insecticide sulfoxaflor.

In her ruling, Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder wrote: “Because the EPA’s decision to unconditionally register sulfoxaflor was based on flawed and limited date, we conclude that the unconditional approval was not supported by substantial evidence. We therefore vacate the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor.”

She further noted that the EPA’s decision to sign off on Dow AgroSciences’ sulfoxaflor – marketed under the brand names Transform and Closer – disregarded existing tests which have proven that these pesticides tend to have a toxic effect on bees. “In this case,” she concluded, “given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it.”

The EPA will now be unable to re-register sulfoxaflor as an approved pesticide unless, and until, it can provide sufficient evidence that the chemical will not have a detrimental impact on bees (which is unlikely to happen any time soon, as neonicotonids have been shown time and time again to be extremely harmful to these vital food pollinators).

Bees are responsible for pollinating approximately one-sixth of all flowering plant species worldwide, including 400 agricultural plant species. There is a wealth of research that draws the connection between the health of the bee population and the health of the human population … meaning, we all need to be acutely concerned about the welfare of these little insects.

Earth Justice – an organization set up by “a small group of attorneys with a passionate belief that the power of the law could be used to preserve the environment” – have hailed the Court’s ruling as a vital step in the preservation of U.S. bee populations.

Greg Loarie, Earth Justice’s lead counsel on the case, said, “Our country is facing widespread bee colony collapse, and scientists are pointing to pesticides like sulfoxaflor as the cause. The Court’s decision to overturn approval of this bee-killing pesticide is incredible news for bees, beekeepers and all of us who enjoy the healthy fruits, nuts and vegetables that rely on bees for pollination.”

Earth Justices estimates that “one in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination, and the annual value of pollination services worldwide are estimated at over $125 billion. In the United States, pollination contributes $20 – $30 billion in agricultural production annually. And in California alone, almond crops – entirely dependent on bees for pollination – are valued at over $3 billion.”

Let’s hope that this important ruling goes some way toward reversing the alarming trend of colony collapse. For more information on what you can do to help honeybees, check out some of our articles below:

Image source: Daniela/Flickr