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Daily News Blog

26
Jul

Take Action: Tell EPA Not to Allow Unnecessary Pesticide Risks

(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2021) Despite federal law that directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to register pesticides only if they do not cause unreasonable adverse effects on humans or the environment, EPA allows pesticides known to cause many adverse effects on humans and the environment. These include health effects such as asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and several types of cancer—and environmental effects such as decimation of pollinator populations, direct and indirect killing of wildlife, reducing carbon sequestration in the soil, and poisoning air, water, and land. The risks are particularly high for farmworkers and fenceline communities. Why does EPA consider these effects “reasonable” when the pesticides are not necessary to achieve pest management or prevention goals?

Tell EPA not to allow unnecessary pesticide risks.

When evaluating pesticide registration applications, EPA does not require data demonstrating “benefits” against which these risks may be weighed. That kind of calculation only takes place years down the line, if EPA believes there is reason to consider canceling a pesticide’s registration. On the other hand, the existence of organic producers fueling $62 billion in organic sales in the U.S., with virtually all commodities being now grown and processed without toxic pesticides, indicates that a true cost accounting of pesticide use would find these risks unreasonable.

This month, the Rockefeller Foundation released a report estimating that the true cost of food is about three times the $1.1 trillion that consumers pay annually. The report says, “Of the impact areas we assessed in our study, the costs related to human health were by far the most significant driver of unaccounted-for costs, at roughly $1.1 trillion per year. That figure alone nearly doubles the cost of our food system—our national ‘bill’ for the diet-related disease is equal to all the money we currently pay for the food itself.” An additional $100 billion is attributed to the “unaccounted livelihood costs” to the “food workers and producers—who are overwhelmingly from marginalized communities, and in particular from communities of color.”

The report also calculates that the “unaccounted costs of the food system on the environment and biodiversity add up to almost $900 billion per year. These costs are mainly attributable to two areas: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and biodiversity costs.”

Although not all of the unaccounted costs identified by the Rockefeller Foundation are directly attributable to pesticide use, many are and should factor into EPA’s pesticide registration process. That process should compare those costs, as well as those already identified by EPA, to the organic farming alternative. If the risks can be eliminated by organic farming, then they are unnecessary—and, therefore, unreasonable.

Tell EPA not to allow unnecessary pesticide risks.

Letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan

I am writing to ask EPA to bring its pesticide registration decision in line with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) “unreasonable adverse effects” standard. The federal pesticide law (FIFRA) directs EPA to register pesticides only if they do not cause unreasonable adverse effects to humans or the environment. Yet EPA registers pesticides known to cause many adverse effects on humans—including asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and several types of cancer—and the environment—including decimation of pollinator populations, direct and indirect killing of wildlife, reducing carbon sequestration in the soil, and poisoning air, water, and land. The risks are particularly high for farmworkers and fenceline communities. What makes these effects “reasonable” when the pesticides are not necessary to achieve pest management or prevention goals?

When evaluating pesticide registration applications, EPA does not require data demonstrating “benefits” against which these risks may be weighed. That kind of calculation only takes place years down the line, if EPA believes there is reason to consider canceling a pesticide’s registration. On the other hand, the existence of organic producers fueling $62 billion in organic sales in the U.S., with virtually all commodities now being grown and processed without toxic pesticides, indicates that a true cost accounting of pesticide use would find these risks unreasonable.

This month, the Rockefeller Foundation released a report estimating that the true cost of food is about three times the $1.1 trillion that consumers pay annually. The report says, “Of the impact areas we assessed in our study, the costs related to human health were by far the most significant driver of unaccounted-for costs, at roughly $1.1 trillion per year. That figure alone nearly doubles the cost of our food system—our national ‘bill’ for the diet-related disease is equal to all the money we currently pay for the food itself.” An additional $100 billion is attributed to the “unaccounted livelihood costs” to the “food workers and producers—who are overwhelmingly from marginalized communities, and in particular from communities of color.”

The report also calculates that the “unaccounted costs of the food system on the environment and biodiversity add up to almost $900 billion per year. These costs are mainly attributable to two areas: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and biodiversity costs.”

Although not all of the unaccounted costs identified by the Rockefeller Foundation are directly attributable to pesticide use, many are and should factor into EPA’s pesticide registration process. That process should compare those costs, as well as those already identified by EPA, to the organic farming alternative. If the risks can be eliminated by organic farming, then they are unnecessary—and, therefore, unreasonable.

Please ensure that the pesticide registration process accounts for the true costs of pesticide use so that EPA can health solve public health threats, the climate crisis, and biodiversity decline.

Thank you.

 

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