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EPA Sets Year End Phase-Out of Carbofuran Tolerances

(Beyond Pesticides, May 12, 2009) The Environmental Protection Agency has revoked regulations that permit residues of the pesticide carbofuran in food. This follows a voluntary withdrawl of 22 uses by the chemical’s manufacturer FMC Corporation in Sepember 2008. Carbofuran is a toxic insecticide that does not meet current U.S. food safety standards. EPA’s action will eliminate residues of carbofuran in food, including all imports, in a move to protect people, especially children, from dietary hazards. The action will also force the removal this pesticide from the market.

The final carbofuran tolerance rule becomes effective December 31, 2009, a time frame that EPA says growers need to use up existing stocks and transition to alternatives. Phase out periods of known hazards (without notice to the public at point of sale) have long been criticized by adocates who argue that recalls be adopted in similar fashion to other consumer products that are pulled off the market at the time a danger is defined.

EPA is proceeding to cancel the remaining carbofuran registrations, or licenses, which will address risks to pesticide applicators and birds in treated fields. In 2006, EPA identified significant dietary, ecological and worker risks from the use of carbofuran and Began negotiating cancellation with FMC. While the company voluntarily withdrew 22 uses of this pesticide, it was insufficient for the agency to conclude that dietary exposures to carbofuran are safe. Safety advocates have long maintained that EPA’s regulation by negotiation with pesticide manufacturers has created an agency culture of unprotective compromises and delays.

EPA released the draft rule for public comment last summer, an announcement which was greeted positively by activistsl. Carbofuran has been recognized as a danger to humans and wildlife, particularly migratory birds, since the 1980s. Most recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service has released a Biological Opinion finding that carbofuran harms endangered salmon and steelhead.

For more information on the tolerance revocation and further actions, visit EPA’s cancellation process page.

EPA is encouraging growers to switch to safer pesticides or other environmentally preferable pest control strategies. Environmental and health risks connected to carbofuran and other toxic agricultural chemicals can be reduced by buying and growing organic food. For more information, visit Beyond Pesticides’ program page.


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