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EPA Approves Biological Pesticides for Use in Emergency Exemptions
(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2003) Under a emergency exemption, the States of Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah may now use a multi-ingredient biological pesticide formulation containing thymol, menthol and eucalyptus to control varroa mites, parasites capable of destroying whole colonies of honey bees. The agency also approved an emergency exemption involving lepidopteran pheromone products to control western poplar clearwing moth for the states of Oregon and Washington. "Emergency exemptions" refer to Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), allowing EPA to permit an exemption under "emergency circumstances" such as a risk to human health or in cases of possible "significant economic loss."

"Biopesticides" such as the products that have received the Section 18 exemption differ from traditional, synthetic, chemical pesticides because they are found in nature or are identical to naturally occurring substances. Most biocides are considered to be least or non-toxic and are often recommended as alternatives by Beyond Pesticides.

While environmentalists applaud the use of alternative pest management practices, most view Section 18 as a loophole in FIFRA for using pesticides for unregistered uses and believe the law is often abused. Section 18 allows pesticide manufacturers to sell product year after year for the same pest problem without performing safety and efficacy tests for the exempted uses.

According to EPA's Office of Pesticide Program's 2002 Annual Report, the agency received 503 emergency exemption requests and approved 412 in 2002. Twenty exemption requests were withdrawn and only 13 were denied.

Beyond Pesticides is currently engaged in a major project to document emergency exemption applications and action by EPA under Section 18. Contact Beyond Pesticides for more information.