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Daily News Blog

14
Aug

Legislation Upholds Local Authority to Restrict Pesticide Use, Advances Other Reforms

(Beyond Pesticides, August 14 2023) The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2023 (PACTPA), introduced on July 28, 2023 in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 5085) and previously introduced on February 2, 2023 in the U.S. Senate (S.269), seeks to improve federal pesticide law. Many advocates, while endorsing the Congressional effort, maintain that the law (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act—FIFRA) is structurally flawed in not requiring restrictions and the elimination of pesticides for which there are safer alternative practices and products. A key provision in the legislation includes language that affirms local authority to restrict pesticides.

Both the House and Senate bills retain the basic structure of FIFRA, while strengthening various aspects of the current risk assessment-based approach to pesticide restrictions. Risk assessment in the current policy context assumes that pesticides are necessary and sets allowable levels of harm based on inadequate information on chemical effects—and margins of safety that allow for numerous uncertainties and disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups. Importantly, the legislation does include a provision that grants communities local authority to restrict pesticides on all property, public and private, within their jurisdiction, allowing towns, cities, and counties to move society away from pesticide dependency and transition to organic practices. At the same time, the chemical industry and its allies in Congress are backing legislation, the Agricultural Labeling Uniformity Act (H.R.4288), which institutionalizes federal preemption of state and local authority, enshrining weak pesticide law against the will of local efforts to protect the health and environment of their communities.

As more and more communities across the country outlaw pesticides on their public land, parks, and playing fields, most states prohibit (or preempt) localities from restricting hazardous use on private property. As a result, pesticides used on landscapes—uses that can be replaced by organic management practices—result in chemical drift and runoff, putting the community in harm’s way and people involuntarily exposed. While the U.S. Supreme Court (in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier) in 1991 found that FIFRA does not preempt local governments’ authority to restrict pesticide use in their town, cities, or counties, state governments have taken that authority away in 44 states at the behest of the pesticide lobby.

Urge your U.S. Representative and Senators to cosponsor PACTPA and reforms to the toxic core of FIFRA, including upholding the right of local governments to restrict pesticides. Or, thank current cosponsors.

A guarantee of local authority is necessary because FIFRA is more protective of the pesticide industry than human and ecological health. The toxic core of FIFRA permits the unnecessary dispersal of toxic chemicals in the environment. If passed, PACTPA will “fix” some major problems, which are symptoms of this toxic core. PACTPA:

* Bans some of the most damaging pesticides scientifically known to cause significant harm to people and the environment:
– Organophosphate insecticides, which are designed to target the neurological system and have been linked to neurodevelopmental damage in children;
– Neonicotinoid insecticides, which have contributed to pollinator collapse around the world (the European Union and Canada have significantly restricted or banned their use to protect pollinators and other wildlife) and have recently been shown to cause developmental defects, heart deformations, and muscle tremors in unborn children;
– Paraquat, which is one of the most acutely toxic herbicides in the world —according to the EPA, just “one sip can kill.” Science has shown that chronic exposure to paraquat increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 200% to 600%. It is already banned in 32 countries, including the European Union.

* Removes dangerous pesticides from the market by:
– Creating a petition process to enable individual citizens to petition the EPA to identify dangerous pesticides so that the EPA would no longer be able to indefinitely allow dangerous pesticides to remain on the market;
– Closing dangerous loopholes that have allowed the EPA to issue emergency exemptions and conditional registrations to use pesticides before they have gone through full health and safety review by the agency;
– Enabling local communities to enact protective legislation and other policies without being vetoed or preempted by state law;
– Suspending the use of pesticides deemed unsafe by the E.U. or Canada until they are thoroughly reviewed by the EPA.

* Provides protections for frontline communities that bear the burden of pesticide exposure by:
– Requiring employers of farmworkers to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA, with strong penalties for failure to report injuries or retaliating against workers;
– Directing the EPA to review pesticide injury reports and work with the pesticide manufacturers to develop btter labeling to prevent future injury;
– Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and in any language spoken by more than 500 pesticide applicators.

Despite this impressive list of reforms, PACTPA does not touch the toxic core of FIFRA, which permits the unnecessary dispersal of toxic chemicals in the environment, regardless of the availability of regenerative organic management practices and products. To eliminate this toxic core, Congress must pass legislation to:

* Prohibit the registration and use of pesticides that do not meet these criteria:
– Necessary to prevent harm to humans and the environment based on an analysis of all alternatives;
– Cause no harm to humans and the environment; and
– Protect against the existential crises of biodiversity collapse, runaway climate change, and chronic and acute health threats.

* Require all supporting data to be submitted and examined by the public before registration (including the elimination of conditional registration).
* Deny and cancel all pesticide registrations not supported by studies demonstrating a lack of endocrine-disrupting effects.
* Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to life in the soil—and hence threatening the climate.
* Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to any endangered species.

Urge your U.S. Representative and Senators to cosponsor PACTPA and reforms to the toxic core of FIFRA, including upholding the right of local governments to restrict pesticides. Or, thank current cosponsors.

And, If  You Have Not Already. . . .Help stop the pesticide lobby from enshrining in federal law a prohibition on local authority to restrict pesticides. See Parts I and II below:

Part I: Tell your local officials to sign onto a letter opposing the preemption language | Part 2: Tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to support communities by opposing anti-democratic preemption language in the 2023 Farm Bill.

Part II: Tell Congress to support communities by opposing anti-democratic preemption language in the 2023 Farm Bill.

Letter to Members of  Congress who are not yet cosponsors:

I am writing to ask you to cosponsor the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2023 (PACTPA—S. 269). PACTPA provides urgently-needed fixes of serious problems with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Crucially, it protects the right of local governments to protect citizens when EPA fails to act.

If passed, PACTPA will “fix” some major problems, which are symptoms of underlying problems in FIFRA. PACTPA:

* Bans some of the most damaging pesticides scientifically known to cause significant harm to people and the environment:
– Organophosphate insecticides, which are designed to target the neurological system and have been linked to neurodevelopmental damage in children;
– Neonicotinoid insecticides, which have contributed to pollinator collapse around the world (the European Union and Canada have significantly restricted or banned their use to protect pollinators and other wildlife) and have recently been shown to cause developmental defects, heart deformations, and muscle tremors in unborn children;
– Paraquat, which is one of the most acutely toxic herbicides in the world —according to the EPA, just “one sip can kill.” Science has shown that chronic exposure to paraquat increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 200% to 600%. It is already banned in 32 countries, including the European Union.

* Removes dangerous pesticides from the market by:
– Creating a petition process to enable individual citizens to petition the EPA to identify dangerous pesticides so that the EPA would no longer be able to indefinitely allow dangerous pesticides to remain on the market;
– Closing dangerous loopholes that have allowed the EPA to issue emergency exemptions and conditional registrations to use pesticides before they have gone through full health and safety review by the agency;
– Enabling local communities to enact protective legislation and other policies without being vetoed or preempted by state law;
– Suspending the use of pesticides deemed unsafe by the E.U. or Canada until they are thoroughly reviewed by the EPA.

* Provides protections for frontline communities that bear the burden of pesticide exposure by:
– Requiring employers of farmworkers to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA, with strong penalties for failure to report injuries or retaliating against workers;
– Directing the EPA to review pesticide injury reports and work with the pesticide manufacturers to develop better labeling to prevent future injury;
– Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and in any language spoken by more than 500 pesticide applicators.

Despite this impressive list of reforms, PACTPA does not touch the toxic core of FIFRA, which permits the unnecessary dispersal of toxic chemicals in the environment, regardless of the availability of regenerative organic management practices. To eliminate this toxic core, I ask you to introduce legislation to:

* Prohibit the registration and use of pesticides that do not meet these criteria:
– Necessary to prevent harm to humans and the environment based on an analysis of all alternatives;
– Cause no harm to humans and the environment; and
– Protect against the existential crises of biodiversity collapse, runaway climate change, and chronic and acute health threats.

* Require all supporting data to be submitted and examined by the public before registration (including the elimination of conditional registration).
* Deny and cancel all pesticide registrations not supported by studies demonstrating a lack of endocrine-disrupting effects.
* Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to life in the soil—and hence threatening the climate.
* Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to any endangered species.

Thank you.

Letter to Congressional cosponsors of PACTPA:

Thank you for sponsoring the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2023 (PACTPA). PACTPA provides urgently-needed fixes of serious problems with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Crucially, it protects the right of local governments to protect citizens when EPA fails to act.

If passed, PACTPA will “fix” some major problems, which are symptoms of underlying problems in FIFRA. PACTPA:

* Bans some of the most damaging pesticides scientifically known to cause significant harm to people and the environment:
– Organophosphate insecticides, which are designed to target the neurological system and have been linked to neurodevelopmental damage in children;
– Neonicotinoid insecticides, which have contributed to pollinator collapse around the world (the European Union and Canada have significantly restricted or banned their use to protect pollinators and other wildlife) and have recently been shown to cause developmental defects, heart deformations, and muscle tremors in unborn children;
– Paraquat, which is one of the most acutely toxic herbicides in the world —according to the EPA, just “one sip can kill.” Science has shown that chronic exposure to paraquat increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 200% to 600%. It is already banned in 32 countries, including the European Union.

* Removes dangerous pesticides from the market by:|
– Creating a petition process to enable individual citizens to petition the EPA to identify dangerous pesticides so that the EPA would no longer be able to indefinitely allow dangerous pesticides to remain on the market;
– Closing dangerous loopholes that have allowed the EPA to issue emergency exemptions and conditional registrations to use pesticides before they have gone through full health and safety review by the agency;
– Enabling local communities to enact protective legislation and other policies without being vetoed or preempted by state law;
– Suspending the use of pesticides deemed unsafe by the E.U. or Canada until they are thoroughly reviewed by the EPA.

* Provides protections for frontline communities that bear the burden of pesticide exposure by:
– Requiring employers of farmworkers to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA, with strong penalties for failure to report injuries or retaliating against workers;|– Directing the EPA to review pesticide injury reports and work with the pesticide manufacturers to develop btter label|
– Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and in any language spoken by more than 500 pesticide applicators.

Despite this impressive list of reforms, PACTPA does not touch the toxic core of FIFRA, which permits the unnecessary dispersal of toxic chemicals in the environment, regardless of the availability of regenerative organic management practices and products. To eliminate this toxic core, I ask you to introduce legislation to:

* Prohibit the registration and use of pesticides that do not meet these criteria:
– Necessary to prevent harm to humans and the environment based on an analysis of all alternatives;
– Cause no harm to humans and the environment; and
– Protect against the existential crises of biodiversity collapse, runaway climate change, and chronic and acute health threats.

* Require all supporting data to be submitted and examined by the public before registration
(including the elimination of conditional registration).
* Deny and cancel all pesticide registrations not supported by studies demonstrating a lack of endocrine-disrupting effects.
* Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to life in the soil—and hence threatening the climate.
* Deny and cancel registrations of all pesticides posing a threat to any endangered species.

Thank you.

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