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Daily News Blog

01
Nov

EPA and Congress Must Act to Correct a Failed Pesticide Program

(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2021) Join with 37 environmental and health groups, farm organizations, and beekeeper councils, who have delivered a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leaders seeking major reforms in the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). They provided a comprehensive list of OPP’s major failures as the lead federal office for pesticide regulation and management, including:

  • Allowing chlorpyrifos to stay registered for more than 14 years after health experts and affected farmworkers petitioned for its removal based on its known neurological danger,
  • Allowing unlimited use of Roundup (glyphosate) long after it was shown to contribute to deadly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in heavy users and it devastated the treasured monarch butterfly, now driven to near extinction in North America,
  • Approving hundreds of neonicotinoid systemic insecticides, now the most widespread insecticide in the country where they are decimating honey and native bees and other key pollinators and beneficial species; and
  • Registering dicamba in a highly volatile herbicide, a shocking blunder later overruled by a federal court ruling that stated OPP “not only substantially understated the risks …. It also entirely failed to acknowledge other risks, including those it was statutorily required to consider.”

Take action: Tell EPA and Congress that the failed pesticide program needs a new start.

These serious failures have emerged from systemic problems at EPA, through which OPP has undermined the purposes of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (which establishes the registration standards for pesticide use) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) (which requires the setting of allowable residues or tolerances on food) by, for example: 

  • pushing through “Yes packages” of pesticide registration proposals that are approved because of industry lobbying and political pressure,
  • suppressing the scientific opinions of many of its own professionals unless they are consistent with the registrants’ (chemical manufacturers’) goals,
  • excessive, outrageous waivers of vital toxicity study requirements and the use of “conditional” registrations by which OPP allows pesticide uses to proceed despite missing key data,
  • engaging in what likely is one of the worst “revolving door” situations in the Federal government in which regulatory officials retire from OPP and then work for or consult with the regulated companies,
  • willful noncompliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, which requires proposed registrations to include consultations with the wildlife agencies (Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service) to take into account and mitigate potential impacts on our nation’s threatened and endangered species, and
  • failure to review and regulate endocrine-disrupting pesticides, as required by the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, which amended FIFRA and FFDCA.

An urgent need exists for OPP to re-think its application of current standards in law to meet the crises of the day. To do this, the agency must embrace a series of underlying principles to guide its decisions into the future:

  1. Use powers under the “unreasonable adverse effects” standard of FIFRA to be more holistic and precautionary. A risk or hazard analysis requires a deeper analysis of costs, including externalities, secondary pest populations, and other factors. When evaluating pesticide registrations, EPA should determine the full range of practices available to achieve submitters’ goals of pesticide registration or reregistration, including chemical and nonchemical strategies. In conducting its risk/hazard assessment to meet its statutory duty, the agency must evaluate the complete pesticide formulation to which the public/environment is exposed, taking into account the active and inert ingredients, contaminants, and metabolites. Mixtures resulting in additive and synergistic effects must be evaluated and, where the full range of data are not available on adverse effects, reasonableness of risk should not be assumed.
  2. Conduct proper alternatives analyses. A broader application of the FIFRA “unreasonable adverse effects” standard includes an assessment by the agency of the range of alternatives – non- or least-toxic practices and materials – that could be used to achieve the ultimate agricultural, landscape, or building management goal. Only in doing so can EPA establish findings on whether food can be grown, landscapes can be managed, and quality of life can be achieved without the use of toxic chemicals. OPP’s findings regarding alternatives will be important to: a) incentivizing the market to move to non- and least-toxic alternative practices and products that can eliminate petroleum-based pesticides that contribute to the climate crisis, b) protecting those who are disproportionately at risk, and c) responding to the dramatic decline of biodiversity. Climate change will likely lead to vector-borne illnesses spreading into new areas, and scientists warn that insecticide exposure under warming temperatures is not well understood.
  3. Reject corrupt data. OPP should not rely on corrupt data, as documented by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting piece in December, 2020. OPP must cancel registrations based on false data and establish a moratorium for future pesticide registrations from manufacturers found to have submitted fraudulent data—until the agency can assure the public that the science supporting pesticide registrations is not corrupt.
  4. Apply science of endocrine disruption. OPP must end its failure to meet the agency’s statutory responsibility to fully protect people and wildlife from the dire consequences of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that affect the full functioning of organisms. More than 50 pesticide active ingredients (more when considering contaminants, “inerts,” etc.) have been identified as EDCs that mimic the action of a naturally produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone, thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body; block hormone receptors in cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or affect the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility and other reproductive disorders, childhood and adult cancers, and other metabolic disorders. OPP has a statutory responsibility to look at the explosion of these diseases, including multigenerational epigenetic effects, analyze the role pesticides play in these diseases, and take protective regulatory action.
  5. Engage in holistic reform. OPP should aggressively implement the Presidential Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies (January 20, 2021) regarding Modernizing Regulatory Review, which directs the heads of all executive departments and agencies to produce recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review, with a goal of promoting public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. It sets the stage for the urgent adoption of agency policy across government to seriously confront the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, and disproportionate harm to people of color communities (environmental racism) and those with comorbidities/underlying health conditions. If OPP’s pesticide registration decisions are to be consistent with this memorandum, it must facilitate the widespread adoption of organic farming and land care practices, which reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon in the soil, and protect the lives of essential workers, farmworkers, and fenceline communities.

Take action: Tell EPA and Congress that the failed pesticide program needs a new start.

EPA and U.S. Congress

EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) has failed miserably at protecting human health and the ecosystem and needs a complete re-set, with a focus on using statutory authorities to meet today’s crises and ensure a future for the Earth’s inhabitants. The agency can no longer continue to ignore science showing the impacts of pesticides to all life. I join with the 37 environmental and health groups, farm organizations, and beekeeper councils, who have delivered a letter to EPA seeking major reforms at OPP. I am asking EPA to:

  1. Use powers under the “unreasonable adverse effects” standard of FIFRA to be holistic and precautionary.
  2. Conduct proper alternatives analyses using organic practices as a standard—providing a basis for determining reasonableness of risk, and establishing findings on whether food can be grown, landscapes can be managed, and quality of life can be achieved without the use of toxic chemicals.
  3. Reject corrupt data. Cancel registrations based on false data and establish a moratorium for future pesticide registrations from manufacturers found to have submitted fraudulent data.
  4. Apply science on endocrine disruption. More than 50 pesticide active ingredients (plus contaminants, “inerts,” etc.) have been identified as endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mimic naturally produced hormones, block hormone receptors in cells, or affect the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones. OPP has a statutory responsibility to look at the explosion of diseases resulting from endocrine disruption, including multigenerational epigenetic effects, analyze the role pesticides play in these diseases, and take protective regulatory action.
  5. Engage in holistic reform. OPP should aggressively implement the Presidential Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies (January 20, 2021) regarding Modernizing Regulatory Review, directing the heads of all executive departments and agencies to produce recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review, with a goal of promoting public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. If OPP’s pesticide registration decisions are to be consistent with this memorandum, it must facilitate the widespread adoption of organic farming and land care practices, which reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon in the soil, and protect the lives of essential workers, farmworkers, and fenceline communities.

Thank you for your attention to these critical concerns. I urge that these issues, summarized above (see bp-dc.org/EPAoppReform), are urgently addressed to respond in a meaningful way to the existential public health and environmental crises facing the nation and world.

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One Response to “EPA and Congress Must Act to Correct a Failed Pesticide Program”

  1. 1
    Rebecca Dmytryk Says:

    I am in the pest control industry. I know there are effective alternatives to resolving pest issues that don’t involve synthetic chemicals that harm the environment and sicken humans. We have a choice. Choose holistic, organic, ecologically sound.

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