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First bee-applied pesticide approved in the U.S.

On Aug. 28, the EPA approved the first bee-distributed organic pesticide for the U.S. market—a powder branded as “Vectorite” that contains the spores of a naturally occurring fungus called CR-7. The compound is complete­ly harmless to its host plant but acts as a hostile competitor to other fungi. It has been approved for commercial growers of flowering crops such as blueberries, strawberries, almonds and tomatoes.

A Canadian company, Bee Vectoring Technolo­gies, devised the system, which involves placing small trays of CR-7 inside bee hives. The bees walk over the trays while in the hive, and the CR-7 attaches to their bodies. When they fly out to pollinate plants, the bees leave traces of the fungal compound everywhere they go. Both bum­blebees and honeybees are capable of spreading Vectorite up to 400 yards from their hive.

Once it’s delivered by the bees, CR-7 quickly embeds itself within the plant, establishing a natural defense system against common diseases such as gray mold, white mold, early potato blight, black rot on citrus and other fungus-based crop problems.

EPA’s published statement on the approval says there is no evidence that CR-7 is unsafe to either humans or the environment and also cre­ates a tolerance exemption, which means there is no requirement to test crops for CR-7 residue on food.

The bee-delivered pesticide is already being marketed for U.S. strawberry and blueberry crops grown in the fall and winter, and the technology is being tested on sunflower crops in the Dakotas.

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