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Daily News Blog

04
Feb

EPA Set to Reapprove Cancer-Causing Glyphosate and Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2020) It was a good day for Bayer/Monsanto. The chemical company’s weed killer glyphosate and its neonicotinoid insecticides are set for reapproval by the U,S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to interim decisions published last week. EPA reapproval of human carcinogens and chemicals contributing to the pollinator crisis is disappointing for health and environmental advocates, but not surprising to those watchdogging the agency during the current administration. “This is how a captured agency behaves,” said Beyond Pesticides community resource and policy director Drew Toher. “When EPA’s decision making repeatedly reflects the exact wishes of the chemical industry, public trust erodes, and we must look to new policy mechanisms that support the protection of health and the environment.”  

On Glyphosate

EPA’s glyphosate decision document glosses over the hazards of the chemical and is requiring very few new safety measures when using the herbicide. These measures are focused on agriculture, including minor label changes around drift, guidelines on resistance management, and a label advisory indicating the chemical is toxic to plants and may adversely impact pollinator foraging. The restrictions fail to match those proposed by Health Canada in 2015, which included buffer zones and restricted entry intervals.  

The agency is determined to avoid consideration of end-use formulations sold to consumers, which science has shown can be more toxic that the active ingredient glyphosate alone. Full formulation testing is the key to understanding the difference between a finding from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate is carcinogenic, and EPA’s lackluster review.

As Beyond Pesticides wrote in comments joined by sixteen health, environmental, farmer, and farmworker organizations: “EPA’s myopic review and response to the dangers posed by glyphosate does a disservice to American farmers, farmworkers, and commercial landscapers wishing to use least-toxic products that do not put them at risk of health impacts, and consumers aiming to make the safest choice in regards to what to feed their family and how to manage their yards.”

While EPA has given glyphosate the greenlight, Bayer, its major manufacturer, is mired in class-action cancer lawsuits, and currently in settlement talks rumored to reach over $10 billion. As Bloomberg reporter Adam Allington wrote of EPA’s decision on twitter, “Imagine if there was no tobacco settlement and that cigarettes were still sold without a Surgeon General warning label. People would be suing left and right over product defect claims, and failure to warn. And they would be winning.”

On Neonicotinoids

Neonicotinoids are a chemical class comprised of several different pesticide active ingredients. EPA’s review covered the most frequently used, including acetamiprid, clothianidin/thiamethoxam, dinotefuran and imidacloprid. Despite finding widespread harm to pollinators, birds, and aquatic organisms, the agency is only requiring limited changes around application timing and amounts. It is eliminating use of imidacloprid on residential turf for grubs, and according to a release will be requiring “language on the label advising homeowners not to use neonicotinoid products.” Thus, the agency appears to be approving a product for sale it does not wish people to use.

EPA’s assessment is counterintuitive at every step. With widespread pollinator declines linked to neonicotinoid insecticides since the mid-2000s, a growing understanding of the role these systemic insecticides play in the insect apocalypse, and similar declines in bird populations, the agency, according to advocates, has embraced not protection, but the destruction of the shared environment. While U.S. regulators continue to embrace chemical-dependency, Canada and the European Union acted decisively to eliminate neonicotinoids.

Moving Forward

In the face of inaction from federal regulators, Congress must step in to address this issue. The Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA), currently with 73 cosponsors in the House, would place another layer of review on EPA’s assessments by an independent panel of experts not subject to the influence of the pesticide industry. Under this legislation, experts would consider impacts outside of EPA’s current reviews, including indirect, ecosystem-wide effects to pollinators and their habitat, pesticide synergism, and the availability of alternative products on the market. Click here to tell your rep to join as a cosponsor to SAPA.

While continuing efforts to address our broken pesticide regulatory system, advocates can work towards state and local legislation that not only eliminates glyphosate and neonicotinoids, but the full range of toxic pesticides EPA continues to approve. Go to Beyond Pesticides Tools for Change webpage for resources and a model policy to pass in your community. Individual choices also matter – use Beyond Pesticides’ ManageSafe page to eliminate the need for toxic pesticides, and support organic certified products, which never allow the use of glyphosate, neonicotinoids, and other hazardous synthetic pesticides.

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

Source: EPA press releases (neonicotinoids, glyphosate)



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  • Archives

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