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Daily News Blog

27
Sep

EPA Fines Syngenta $1.2 Million for Multiple Safety Violations under Settlement

(Beyond Pesticides, September 27, 2016)  Multinational pesticide manufacturer Syngenta Crop Protection was handed a  $1.2 million fine last week for multiple violations of federal pesticide law, according a settlement reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA charged Syngenta with three major violations of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), including: (1) Failure to have repackaging agreement and/or maintain records on registered pesticides; (2) Distributing misbranded pesticides, and; (3) Failure to maintain data submitted for pesticide registration. However, under the consent agreement reached with EPA, the company neither admits nor denies the allegations. The settlement comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Syngenta, as the company is in the process of reregistering the herbicide atrazine, and Chinese National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) continues its attempts to complete a $43 billion merger. While the plan appears to have cleared U.S. regulatory hurdles, European lawmakers have yet to sign off on the deal.

syngenta-biotechnology“The repackaging, sale and distribution of unregistered and misbranded pesticides is illegal and puts people and the environment at risk. Users rely on accurate, up-to-date information about ingredients, directions for use, hazards and safety precautions,” said Anne Heard, Acting Regional Administrator for the Southeast in an EPA press release.

EPA found  that Syngenta distributed and/or sold over 19 pesticides to over 222 pesticide refillers (companies that receive bulk pesticide products from manufacturers and then repackage the products for sale to users) either without having repackaging agreements in place with these companies, or without maintaining records of repackaging agreements. After inspections of multiple facilities throughout the country, EPA also found that  Syngenta sold pesticide products with outdated labels. One product cited in both violations includes Expert Herbicide, a restricted use product that  contains a mixture of the herbicides atrazine, glyphosate, and S-metolachlor. With EPA focused on mitigating risks through product label instructions and warnings, it is critical that manufacturers’ products comply with current EPA registration requirements  to meet the agency’s acceptable risk standards. In the case of Expert Herbicide, Syngenta was found by EPA to have  sold its  product to refillers under a label from 2004 that was missing required information under “precautionary statements,” “directions for use,” and a “storage and disposal statement,” and without a formal agreement with the product’s repackager.

EPA’s findings  are particularly concerning because Syngenta  settled a lawsuit in 2012  with over 1,800 Community Water Systems (CWS) over contamination of drinking water with atrazine. The company was required to pay $105 million to CWSs throughout the country to assist them with removing this highly toxic chemical from drinking water.

Syngenta’s final set of violations came from an inspection of laboratories the company used to test pesticides to support their registration. EPA discovered that Syngenta, as required by  FIFRA,  did not maintain study records that  characterized  food residues after the application of the widely used fungicides azoxystrobin and propiconazole.

Under the consent agreement, Syngenta will pay $766,508 in civil penalties and will spend $436,990 to perform a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP). The SEP requires Syngenta to conduct within four  years an education campaign to train pesticide users, manufacturers, and refillers about regulatory requirements under FIFRA. EPA will oversee the program’s implementation to ensure manufacturer compliance with the law.

Ms.  Heard said,  “This settlement sends a strong message to pesticide companies to maintain compliance with all federal environmental laws.” It has been suggested by  Beyond Pesticides that  EPA adopt  a more aggressive enforcement strategy, that the settlements on penalties do not appear to affect corporate behavior.  Only 2 years ago, while EPA was still conducting its Syngenta investigation, the agency announced the largest ever pesticide fine ($1.7 million) for violations that included mislabeling pesticide products. It does not appear that the few penalties have not created enough of a disincentive. The agency brought four cases  leading to civil penalties in 2014, and two  cases in 2015.

Without strong enforcement and oversight, companies may  feel little pressure to adhere to regulatory  requirements under  federal law. For the protection of public and environmental health, it is critical that state and federal agencies vigorously enforce current law, and update their current enforcement policy, which has not been revised since 2009, to allow higher penalties and expanded use of criminal proceedings.

Take the most effective action to protect public and environmental health by telling EPA to ban uses of the toxic herbicide atrazine. You can also work to reduce demand for pesticides by going organic in your yard and community, and purchasing certified organic food whenever possible.

Source: EPA Region 4 Press Release, Syngenta Consent Agreement and Final Order

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

 

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One Response to “EPA Fines Syngenta $1.2 Million for Multiple Safety Violations under Settlement”

  1. 1
    Peter Crownfield Says:

    It’s nice to see EPA doing something, but $1.2 million isn’t even a slap on the wrist for Syngenta.

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