(Beyond Pesticides, December 21, 2007) EPA is proposing a major overhaul of pesticide labels that will allow cause-related marketing (advertising) directly on products, a reversal of a long-standing policy that prohibited such representations. Beyond Pesticides urges the public to submit comments opposing such labeling and to support a request that EPA extend the deadline for comments (now set at December 31, 2007) to allow between 30 and 60 additional days for public comment on this proposed change. The change in law has serious safety implications, according to Beyond Pesticides, because the use of symbols, such as the Red Cross, implies that poisonous products are safe.
On February 7, 2007, numerous groups petitioned EPA to rescind and deny the pesticide product label for the Clorox Company, which allows the display of the Red Cross symbol and language on pesticide products. The groups signing the petition included Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, Center for Environmental Health, American Bird Conservancy, Pesticide Education Project, Strategic Counsel on Corporate Accountability, Environmental Health Fund, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Natural Resources Defense Council, Maryland Pesticide Network and Washington Toxics Coalition. Current label laws, defined by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), prohibit pesticide manufacturers from making misleading claims of safety on product labels. EPA’s proposal would allow wording and graphics of third-party endorsements or cause-marketing claims, such as the Red Cross symbol. The announcement of this proposal came nearly a year ago, but EPA’s public comment period on the new rules will close on December 31. At that time, Beyond Pesticides issued comments and releases challenging the proposal.
This week, the environmental group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) commented on a proposed change to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) labeling policy. PEER’s latest announcement of EPA’s plan includes their submitted comments, list eight compelling arguments against changing FIFRA’s current requirements. In summary, they are:
1. Placement of the Red Cross and Other Safety or Environmental Symbols on Commercial Poisons is Inherently Misleading (a. Violates Federal Trade Commission Guidelines; b. Violates EPA guidelines; c. State Laws)
2. EPA Plan Puts Vulnerable Populations at Risk
3. Extraneous Claims Distract Consumer from Concentrating on Safe Usage Label Instructions
4. EPA Plan Creates Conflicts with State Regulations
5. EPA Has Presented No Information Indicating Why its Label Policy Is Needed
6. EPA Proposed Policy Lacks Workable Standards (a. No Criteria for Conclusions; b. No Fixed Burden of Proof or Even Burden of Presentation on Applicant; c. Questionable Claims will be Approved; d. Vague Policy Invites Litigation)
7. Proposal Entangles EPA in Corporate Marketing Schemes 8. Proposal Results in a Needless Diversion of Scarce Regulatory Resources
EPA cites the case of Clorox, which, last spring, applied to display the American Red Cross symbol on its labels, as one basis for its proposal. Its approval by EPA was contested by seven state Attorneys General and directly violated the language of FIFRA, which prohibits use of “symbols implying safety or nontoxicity, such as a Red Cross or a medical seal of approval (caduceus).” Beyond Pesticides and other groups petitioned EPA to revoke its approval, full details of which you can view here.State governments, as PEER’s comments mention, have also voiced opposition to EPA’s stance. Minnesota’s Pesticide Management Unit Supervisor, Gregg Regimbal, informed Clorox in April that “The American Red Cross as an organization and the red cross as its symbol are well understood to mean (at least) safety, and it is the MDA’s opinion and position that inclusion of such a symbol and organization name on a pesticide label would constitute misbranding.” Public comments urging EPA to reject this policy of adding misleading third-party endorsements to pesticide labels are critical to ensuring that no one, especially vulnerable populations like children and the illiterate, falsely believe a toxic product to be safe. You can review the full draft document here, and submit your comments for Docket ID #EPA-HQ-OPP-2007-1008 through December 31. In your comments, include a request for an extension, to give an opportunity to comment to as many people as possible. If submitting by mail, send to Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) Regulatory Docket (7502P), Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001. You can also submit comments online by following directions to search for Docket ID #EPA-HQ-OPP-2007-1008. For additional submission instructions, see the Federal Register.Beyond Pesticides has requested an extension of the comment period from EPA.
If you have already commented, please send your own request to Administrator Stephen Johnson. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or by fax at (202) 501-1450. If you have not yet submitted your comments, please include a request for extension, in order to provide opportunity for as many people to be heard as possible.