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Daily News Blog

28
Jan

Take Action: Help Close the “Emergency” Pesticide Use Loophole

(Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2019) A  September 2018 report from the Office Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified issues important to protecting health and the environment. The EPA’s response to the report left many of these problems unresolved.

Measures and Management Controls Needed to Improve EPA’s Pesticide Emergency Exemption Process (Report No. 18-P-0281, September 25, 2018), finds that the agency’s practice of routinely granting “emergency” approval for pesticides through its Section 18 program does not effectively measure risks to human health or the environment.

Tell Congress to Ask the EPA Administrator to Close the “Emergency” Pesticide Use Loophole, and Adopt All the Recommendations of the Office of the Inspector General.

Under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA has the authority to approve the temporary emergency use of unapproved pesticides if the agency determines the pesticide is needed to prevent the spread of an unexpected outbreak of crop-damaging insects, for example. But this provision has been widely abused.

The inspector general recommends EPA “develop and implement applicable outcome-based performance measures to demonstrate the human health and environmental effects of the EPA’s emergency exemption decisions.”

EPA disagreed and said, [T]he development of an outcome-based performance measure for the Section 18 emergency exemption process was neither appropriate nor feasible.” EPA’s response demonstrates that the current Section 18 program, which allows chronic overuse of emergency exemptions, is neither appropriate nor adequately protective of public health.

OIG’s report finds “significant deficiencies in the OPP’s [Office of Pesticide Programs] online database management, in its draft Section 18 emergency exemption standard operating procedure and application checklist, and in its reports to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.” Specifically, the report notes EPA “does not have outcome measures in place to determine how well the emergency exemption process maintains human health and environmental safeguards. The program office also does not have comprehensive internal controls to manage the emergency exemption data it collects,” and “OPP does not consistently communicate emergency exemption information with its stakeholders.”

Beyond Pesticides has firmly opposed the current use of Section 18. Through the Section 18, or emergency exemption program, EPA allows the use of pesticides that are not registered for a particular crop, or in some cases not registered for use at all, but making progress toward registration. EPA can set tolerances for affected crops that are time-limited, usually for the season in which they are allowed or sometimes longer. For example, in March 2017 EPA announced it is allowing residues of antibiotics in Florida orange juice, after approving an emergency exemption for the antibiotics streptomycin and oxytetracycline –allowing their use for a bacterial disease, citrus greening (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) bacterium that causes Huanglongbing), in Florida citrus crops through December of 2019, and further exacerbating bacterial resistance. Organic citrus growers use cultural practices, soil fertility focused on soil biology, and biological controls to manage the disease.

Beyond Pesticides has found a growing number of requests for Section 18 emergency exemptions from states over the last ten years for the use of pesticides to control various resistant weed and insect pests that do not meet the criteria for “non-routine” or “emergency” conditions set forth in FIFRA, and/or whose pesticide use would pose elevated risks to the environment. Additionally, a number of requests and subsequent, almost annual, issuance of Section 18 exemptions essentially replace one Section 18 exemption with another. Continuous exemptions for the same or similar pest problem over a number of years indicates that the case is not “non-routine” and undermines the intent of the program, which is to provide temporary relief from unforeseen problems.

A Center for Biological Diversity report finds as of 2017, EPA had granted 78 “emergency” exemptions for sulfoxaflor, a pesticide that the EPA itself concluded is highly toxic to bees. EPA has approved emergency exemptions to allow sulfoxaflor use on more than 17.5 million acres of U.S. cotton and sorghum farms – use sites where the pesticide is not currently registered. Other exemptions are given to states to combat herbicide-resistant weeds, which have proliferated across the U.S. over the last decade and should not be considered an “emergency” situation; resistance is a predictable consequence of pesticide use.

Reoccurring problems like weed resistance to herbicides should be a wake-up call for farmers and EPA to reevaluate and implement alternative biological and cultural management practices for the long-term prevention of diseases, ending the reliance on the “chemical fix” that will exacerbate the problem when pest resistance to the chemical inevitably occurs.

Tell Congress to Ask the EPA Administrator to Close the “Emergency” Pesticide Use Loophole, and Adopt All the Recommendations of the Office of the Inspector General,

Letter to Congress

When the Office Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its report in September, 2018 on emergency pesticide uses, the agency’s response left unresolved many issues important to the protection of health and the environment. The report, Measures and Management Controls Needed to Improve EPA’s Pesticide Emergency Exemption Process (Report No. 18-P-0281, September 25, 2018), concludes that the agency’s practice of routinely granting approval through its Section 18 emergency exemption program for pesticide use does not effectively measure risks to human health or the environment. Under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA has the authority to approve the temporary emergency use of unapproved pesticides if the agency determines the pesticide is needed to prevent the spread of an unexpected non-routine outbreak of crop-damaging insects, for example.

 The Inspector General recommends that EPA “develop and implement applicable outcome-based performance measures to demonstrate the human health and environmental effects of the EPA’s emergency exemption decisions.” EPA disagreed and said, “[T]he development of an outcome-based performance measure for the Section 18 emergency exemption process was neither appropriate nor feasible.” EPA’s response demonstrates that the current Section 18 program, which allows chronic overuse of emergency exemptions, is neither appropriate nor adequately protective of public health.

 OIG’s report finds “significant deficiencies in the OPP’s [Office of Pesticide Programs] online database management, in its draft Section 18 emergency exemption standard operating procedure and application checklist, and in its reports to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.” Specifically, the report notes EPA “does not have outcome measures in place to determine how well the emergency exemption process maintains human health and environmental safeguards. The program office also does not have comprehensive internal controls to manage the emergency exemption data it collects,” and “OPP does not consistently communicate emergency exemption information with its stakeholders.”

 The ”emergency” use of unregistered pesticides under the current EPA program threatens public health and the environment. Please urge the EPA Administrator to comply with all the OIG recommendations immediately.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Sincerely

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One Response to “Take Action: Help Close the “Emergency” Pesticide Use Loophole”

  1. 1
    Karl Hamann Says:

    I oppose the Oregon fracked gas terminal. fracking is so destructive to groundwater it should be banned. And exporting fossil fuels is a double whammy on Earth’s climate. NO FG Terminal!

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