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Daily News Blog

22
Sep

EPA Urged to Stop Use of Misbranded “Minimum Risk” Pesticides, Step Up Oversight and Enforcement

(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2021) Health and environmental organizations are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state pesticide regulators to immediately stop the use and sale of dangerous and misbranded Eco-MIGHT and W.O.W. (Whack Out Weeds!) products, falsely labeled as 25(b) minimum risk. Recent laboratory testing by the state of California found the presence of hazardous pesticides, including glyphosate, bifenthrin, permethrin, cypermethrin, and carbaryl in these products. “From organic farmers to municipal landscapers and home gardeners, consumers employing minimum risk products are working intentionally to avoid the dangers associated with toxic pesticide exposure,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “It is critical that EPA and state regulators coordinate to ensure the integrity of the minimum risk program.”

Coordination is critical yet reports indicate that EPA is falling down on the job. The issue first came to light in late July, when the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) State Organic Program issued a Stop Use Notice to farmers alerting them to adultered Eco-MIGHT and W.O.W products. The products make a range of claims, marketed as “organic,” “natural,” “glyphosate-free,” and “non-toxic and safe.” As CDFA Secretary Karen Ross noted, “It is imperative that we alert California organic growers that these EcoMIGHT products contain substances that are prohibited in organic production, in order to preserve the integrity of the California organic label and to protect our growers,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.

At the same time as CFDA’s Stop Use Notice, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (the state’s primary enforcement agent for pesticides) sent a warning letter to EcoMIGHT LLC, the parent company that produces both of the products in question, alerting them that they may be in violation of state law. EPA sent a similar advisory letter to the company indicating that it may be in violation of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by misbranding, selling an unregistered pesticide (given the presence of ingredients disallowed in 25(b) minimum risk products), and false and misleading label statements.  

While those actions do show a degree of coordination to protect California growers and consumers, these warnings are not reaching other state regulatory agencies. Emails forwarded to Beyond Pesticides from Connecticut advocate Mary Wilson of the group Protect Our Pollinators, sent in mid-September, questioned state regulators on the status of the product, which had been registered under state law as of July 19, according to a company press release.  In that press release, EcoMIGHT LLC indicates that registration of its product helps the state’s Governor, Ned Lamont, “fulfill his campaign promise” to eliminate toxic pesticides. Ms. Wilson and her organization were told that the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) was not aware of California’s concerns over adulteration until they had sent the email. DEEP indicated that it is looking into the advertising statements mentioning the Governor, and that EPA Region 1 is now coordinating with EPA Region 9 regarding the issue and will provide guidance to the state if the adulteration is confirmed.

However, the lack of swift action has advocates concerned that DEEP is being saddled with the consequences of EPA’s poor track record for oversight and enforcement. “We in Connecticut are not satisfied when mislabeled and potentially dangerous products are sold in our state,” Ms. Wilson said.

“When one state issues a stop use order on a misbranded product, the problem is not siloed in that state,” said Mr. Feldman of Beyond Pesticides. “It is not enough to simply send a letter to the manufacturer. EPA must establish a process to alert all state pesticide regulatory agencies of enforcement actions that could affect the status of organic farmer certifications, consumer health, and environmental protection in their state.”

In addition to coordination, advocates urge increased EPA accountability over minimum risk products, to ensure that these products live up to their namesake. Minimum risk products are limited to a specific list of ingredients, and all ingredients, including inert ingredients, are required to be listed on the label.  

While this finding does damage the minimum risk designation, it speaks to a broader problem of EPA failing to provide oversight to manufacturers over pesticide contamination and adulteration. Late last year, independent testing by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) found that mosquito pesticides were being tainted with highly hazardous PFAS (per and polyfluorinated alykyl substances) ‘forever chemicals.’ Although the state of Massachusetts stopped using the initially tested product, Anvil 10+10, PEER determined that localities in at least 25 states have used Anvil 10+10 as part of their mosquito spray program. While EPA continues to look into the problem, further testing has shown the issue to be much more widespread. In Maryland, testing from PEER and Maryland Pesticide Education Network found significant levels of PFAS in Permanone 30-30, a mosquito adulticide regularly used by the Maryland Department of Agriculture in their mosquito control program.

The recent history of contamination in both minimum risk and registered pesticides bodes very poorly for a pesticide office already on its heels from in-depth reporting about its corruption. To restore public trust, the agency must step up enforcement and coordination, and ensure, when problems spring up in one location, swift action is taken to protect farmers and consumers throughout the United States.

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

Source: California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, EPA, Personal communication with the author and Mary Wilson of Protect Our Pollinators

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2 Responses to “EPA Urged to Stop Use of Misbranded “Minimum Risk” Pesticides, Step Up Oversight and Enforcement”

  1. 1
    mark glasser Says:

    Pesticides infiltrate our land, our water, our air, our food. They must be banned because they effect our physical and emotional and medical well being.

  2. 2
    Gary Fish Says:

    Ideally EPA should phase out the 25B exemption and assure that all pesticides sold in the US have been through the full registration process. Too many complaints about these products either causing respiratory issues, eye damage, skin burns or just not working.

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