Changes are proposed to package labeling for malathion, a pesticide dangerous to bees and other “good” insects.

(Frank Rumpenhorst/photo alliance via Getty Images)

  • The change comes after chemical companies agreed to change labeling, the AP reported.
  • Malathion is toxic to bees and other beneficial insects, as well as some fish and other aquatic life.
  • Its use is prohibited in the European Union.

US wildlife officials are reducing their stance that the pesticide malathion could threaten 78 species with extinction after chemical companies agreed to change their labeling to include instructions on how to use the product more safely, a reported the Associated Press.

Malathion has been used for decades in the United States to kill mosquitoes, grasshoppers and other similar pests, but it is also highly toxic bees and other beneficial insects, as well as some fish and other aquatic life, according to the National Pesticide Information Center at Oregon State University.

This is banned in the European Union.

The US Fish and Wildfire Service said in a draft report last year that malathion could drive several already endangered plant and animal species to extinction.

In February, a new report said instead that malathion could cause limited harm, but is unlikely to drive extinction, if labels are changed to illustrate more cautious use, according to reports. documents reviewed by the PA.

The new labels would include more explicit directions on when and where malathion should be used, including not spraying in the middle of the day when bees are most active. The plan, which is in the middle of an 18-month review and implementation process, would rely on those using the chemical to follow instructions.

The Environmental Protection Agency says the proposal would reduce exposure to pesticides and protect threatened and endangered species.

Environmentalists disagree.

“It’s a huge punt,” Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity told the AP. “There is not a single endangered species that will see anything change on the ground because of this biological advisory for at least 18 months, but probably never.”

The EPA is also considering extension for another 15 years the use of a group of pesticides known as neonicotinoids which are also considered harmful to bees, according to The Guardian.

“We are already seeing crashes in insect numbers and we don’t have another 15 years to waste,” Nathan Donley, director of environmental health sciences at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the newspaper.

In response, an EPA spokesperson said the agency was considering certain mitigations for their use, and that the EPA was “working aggressively to protect pollinators, including bees.”

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