(Beyond Pesticides, August, 8, 2011) In a move that highlights serious concerns regarding the pesticide registration process, DuPont has announced that it plans to issue a total recall of its new herbicide, Imprelis, following widespread evidence and complaints that the product has caused the deaths of trees around the country. After originally giving conditional approval to the new pesticide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now stated that it is preparing to issue a “Stop Sale” order to halt any further use of the product.
According to a letter posted on DuPont’s website Imprelis-Facts.com, the company is implementing a “voluntary suspension” of Imprelis sales. It intends to ask distributors to collect all Imprelis containers, even those partially used, that they have sold and return them to the company for a refund.
Earlier this year, in what some said was one of the biggest disasters of its kind since the emerald ash borer killed millions of trees, Imprelis was linked to white pine and Norway spruce trees turning brown or dying all across the country. Tree damage was reported throughout the Midwest, in East Coast states and as far south as Georgia. Many landscapers in Michigan and elsewhere switched to Imprelis (See the MSDS here) this year to control weeds such as dandelions because it was touted as “safer” by DuPont for the environment than predecessors such as 2,4-D. So many trees have died -from the East Coast west to Iowa – that the damage is projected to be in the millions of dollars.
On Wednesday, August 3, EPA sent a letter to DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman following up on recent discussions between agency officials and company executives regarding Imprelis. In addition to inviting DuPont to meet with EPA to discuss implementation of a Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order, the letter urges the company to make public all records or other documents that it has regarding scientific studies conducted on Imprelis. The letter states that EPA is uncomfortable with the amount of registration information DuPont claimed as confidential business information (CBI) under section 10 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (7 U.S.C. 136h). According to the letter, “EPA believes that the public interest demands that this information be made publicly available as soon as possible and, therefore, EPA strongly encourages DuPont to reconsider its CBI claims for these studies, especially for the phytotoxicity studies related to effects on trees.”
Imprelis, whose active ingredient is the potassium salt of aminocyclopyrachlor, is a new herbicide conditionally registered in 2010. Conditional registration is allowed under Section 3(c)(7) of FIFRA (7 U.S.C. 136a (c)(7)), which allows pesticide registration to be granted even though all data requirements have not been satisfied, with the assumption that no unreasonable adverse effects on the environment will occur. When this occurs, pesticides are introduced to the market with unknown and unevaluated risks to human and environmental health. While all data must be eventually submitted, it often takes years before EPA acquires relevant data -often with data submitted for the 15-year reregistration review cycle that all registered pesticides must go through. It is rare that the regulatory decision is altered once data has been submitted.
In giving conditional approval to Imprelis, EPA concluded after reviewing data submitted by DuPont that, “In accordance with FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(C), the Agency believes that the conditional registration of aminocyclopyrachlor will not cause any unreasonable adverse effects to human health or to the environment and that the use of the pesticide is in the public’s interest; and is therefore granting the conditional registration.”
EPA has come under scrutiny recently since it was revealed that the conditionally registered pesticide, clothianidin, did not, at the time it allowed the pesticide to be widely used, have pertinent field data required on honeybees, even though the pesticide is known to pose risks to these vulnerable pollinators. This data is still outstanding even though clothianidin continues to be used in the environment.