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May 16, 2003

Public Information and Records Integrity Branch
Office of Pesticide Programs
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.
Washington, DC 20460
Docket ID No. OPP-2002-0231

Re: Pesticides; Emergency Exemption Process Revisions Pilot and Request for Comment

Dear Sir or Madam:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed pilot project to streamline the Section 18 Emergency Exemption Program. These comments are submitted on behalf of Beyond Pesticides and its membership. Beyond Pesticides is a membership-based organization committed to pesticide safety and the adoption of alternative pest management strategies that reduce or eliminate a dependency on toxic chemicals. These comments will suggest changes to the proposed pilot project to streamline the Section 18 Emergency Exemption Program.

Although easing the paperwork burden on regulated parties is an admirable goal, careful attention must be paid to prevent future abuses of the emergency exemption program that may be made possible by this program, such as:

1) Continued exemptions may be given to “non-emergency” situations. With application burdens eased, it will become easier to reapply without proof of an ongoing “emergency,” applicants must not become dependant on these temporary exemptions to provide long-term pest relief.

2) Reduced Risk pesticides may still pose a risk to humans, non-humans and/or the larger ecosystem. Specific language must be include in this program to ensure that the “reduced risk pesticides” will pose a risk less than registered alternatives.

According to EPA a reduced risk pesticide is defined as one that "may reasonably be expected to accomplish one or more of the following" :

(1) reduces pesticide risks to human health;
(2) reduces pesticide risks to non-target organisms;
(3) reduces the potential for contamination of valued,
environmental resources, or
(4) broadens adoption of IPM or makes it more effective.
It is unacceptable that one risk could be substituted for another. Only pesticides that meet all of the above criteria should be considered for this program. EPA must only consider pesticide candidates that reduce risk in all areas.
3) Reduced attention to possible non-chemical alternatives. With reduced data requirements the possibility for applicants to inadequately research non-chemical alternatives without EPA’s knowledge increases. It is imperative that EPA mandate integrated pest management (IPM) initiatives into the pilot program.
4) This pilot program must not serve as a segue to reduce regulatory oversight of all Section 18 applications. Past experience has proven that pesticides posing unacceptable risk can be approved through the Section 18 process without the diligent oversight of regulators and the public at large.
5) Public participation must be encouraged to ensure the credibility of the program. All participating applications in this program should be posted for comment by the public and placed in a public docket.

Use of the Section 18 Program for Pest Resistance Management Research

This program has a long history of enabling the dependence on toxic chemicals to aid farmers. It is imperative that all changes proposed to this program require significant attention be paid to the possibility of non-chemical alternatives. With the raise of the organics industry, massive advancements have been made in non-chemical crop science and the use of physical and biological options to help control pests. If this program is used to test pest resistance, equal effort should be made to test the efficacy and economics of using new and old non-chemical alternatives in large-scale conventional agriculture. The use of non-chemical alternatives in addition to or in place of traditional pest management strategies can be successful implemented to reduce pest resistance and slow the progress of existing resistance problems.

Pest resistance studies must be carried out in a scientific manor. If the Section 18 program is to be uses to study pest resistance, it must do so under the guidance of trained professionals and monitored under the current extension service. Also, there must be an emphasis on non-chemical alternatives in the fight against resistance, both with new chemicals and old. Also the provision of using only “reduced risk” chemicals must be maintained throughout the program. If this program is not properly designed and maintained it has the potential to increase resistance problems, rather then reduce them by exposing pests to a wider variety of chemical pesticides.

Impacts on Stakeholders

The Federal Register notice clearly neglects non-applicant stakeholders.
“The improvements discussed at the workshop, and those included in this Notice, directly affect only applicants for emergency exemptions. States are the primary applicants for emergency exemptions, although Federal agencies may also apply”.

No action concerning the application of pesticides, especially those that are not registered effect only the “applicants”. Everyone from farmers to potentially effected wildlife can affected by any changes. This so-called reduction in paperwork could very easily provide yet another loophole for emergency exemptions that last beyond any reasonable definition of an “emergency.” This narrow definition of “effected stakeholder” must be broadened.

Public Participation

The proposed pilot program does not provide for adequate public participation in the decision to allow the application of unregistered pesticides. Many of these applications are chemicals with inadequate safety data and many of the applications are on food. It is imperative that EPA include in the process a protocol for timely public announcement of applications and the opportunity for participation.
Furthermore these paper work changes have the potential to decrease the already limited amount of public participation in this process. EPA is already in violation of a court ordered mandate to ease public access to the section 18 process by actively creating dockets. According to the lawsuit, National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides and Public Citizen v. Carol M. Browner, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, settled October 14, 1993, EPA is required to create dockets for all Section 18 exemption applications that meet the criteria stated in 40 CFR § 166.24 (a). It is the understanding of Beyond Pesticides that EPA has not fulfilled the intent of this agreement. Any changes to the Section 18 process that lessens the ability of non applicant stakeholders to participate in unacceptable and a further violation of the intent of this settlement.

Repeat Applications

There is already a great lack of follow-through within the section 18 program. Many applications are renewed year after year, with inadequate consideration of non-chemical options to solve what is a reoccurring problem, not and emergency. It is inappropriate to make reoccurring 18’s easier to get, and maintain.
From 1992 to 1999 EPA records revealed 90 situations where states requested Section 18 exemptions to use the same pesticide on the same crop in at least five of seven years. Sixty-six (73 percent) of these requests were granted. Twelve of these “emergencies” lasted seven years in a row, 17 were for six of seven years, and 61 were for five of the seven years. EPA must take a proactive approach to this problem, and easing the requirements to prove emergency circumstances runs counter to this goal.

Conclusion

In conclusion, pesticide usage is increasing at the same time that loss to pests in farming is increasing. This program is an ideal opportunity to promote alternatives including changes in farming practices, biologicals, and other non-chemical practices.

The environment in an extremely dynamic place, to rely on static practices that do not adapt, will in all cases, eventually become less effective. This change does not necessarily constitute an emergency. It is imperative for the program to look closer at the definition of an emergency and how long many of these so-called emergencies last. The pilot program must include a concerted effort by the applicant to move toward a truly integrated system of pest control, before they can be approved for the reduced paperwork load.

The goal of the changes to the section 18 program must include an emphasis to end the need to use non-registered pesticides. This can be accomplished in several ways, but all plans must included the ability to change with the environment and pest pressures and how to deal with “true” emergencies, when similar situations emerge in the future.