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Wildlife advocates: EPA, USDA moves threaten bees, food supply

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Wildlife advocates say two new policies from the Trump administration are threatening the nation’s honeybees and could hurt the food supply.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has cleared the use of the insecticide sulfoxaflor, which was previously banned because it killed bees.

“It’s very daunting and frustrating to see,” said Mary Phillips of the National Wildlife Federation.

Phillips says while you may not want bees around, their pollination is crucial to the food chain.

“That’s how you get berries, nuts, seeds all the different food items that we eat that goes into one-third of our diet,” said Phillips.

Scientists have said the reapproved pesticide sulfoxalfor is especially harmful to bees. In 2014, the Obama administration banned its use to protect an already dwindling honeybee population.

However, in its June decision, the EPA says when sulfoxaflor is used as directed, it “poses no significant risk to human health and lower risk to non-target wildlife, including pollinators, than registered alternatives” and could curb up to 50 percent of pest damage to certain crops.

At the same time as the EPA’s decision, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has suspended its quarterly count of honeybees, making it more difficult to track bee populations and potential disease outbreaks threatening the insect.

While bee advocates like Phillips find the timing of both decisions odd, Tony Dorn of the USDA says the move to suspend the quarterly bee count indefinitely is related to funding and not the pesticide’s approval.

“That’s a decision that we take very seriously,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently condemned both moves.

“Like many under the radar decisions, they hit home and can hurt people, jobs and the economy,” said the Democrat from New York.

Schumer says if the USDA doesn’t have the money, Congress can help and add it into the budget.