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Action of the Week Archive

Action of the Week is intended to provide you, our supporters and network, with one concrete action that you can take each week to have your voice heard on governmental actions that are harmful to the environment and public and worker health, increase overall pesticide use, or undermine the advancement of organic, sustainable, and regenerative practices and policies. As an example, topics may include toxic chemical use, pollinator protection, organic agriculture and land use, global climate change, and regulatory or enforcement violations.

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02/24/2024 — States Must Protect Farmers, Gardeners, and Other Pesticide Applicators When EPA Fails

Pesticide and chemical manufacturers have descended on state legislators with legislation to shield them from liability lawsuits filed by people injured from exposure to their products. So far, the industry has been successful in getting their bill introduced in at least four states. This activity is spurred on by the thousands of cases involving Roundup/glyphosate that have resulted in large jury awards and settlements against Bayer/Monsanto in the billions of dollars. While sponsors of these bills claim that the labels on pesticide products provide sufficient warning of hazards, users have been misled by advertising that falsely touts product safety. Reminiscent of previous state legislative battles, the chemical industry is now leaning on elected officials, whether in state legislatures or the U.S. Congress, to do its bidding in blocking, or preempting, court action.

In 1991, after losing the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier that upheld the right of local governments to restrict pesticide use, the pesticide industry went to every state legislature to preempt local authority. Preemption language was quickly enshrined in the state law of 43 states. Now, after being rebuffed by the Supreme Court in 2022 in an attempt to overturn large liability judgments against Monsanto/Bayer for glyphosate hazards, the industry is asking state legislatures to block future liability for pesticide manufacturers whose products cause harm. So far, similar bills to limit liability have been introduced in four states, and more are expected.   

>>Tell your state legislators to protect the right of citizens to seek redress against pesticide manufacturers from harm caused by their products. 

Last week, the Idaho Senate rejected SB 1245, which would have provided legal protection to pesticide manufacturers from “failure-to-warn" liability. This legal framework has been pivotal not only for pesticide users seeking redress from exposure to glyphosate-based herbicide products such as Roundup, but also applies to any toxic pesticide products. Proponents of SB 1245 argue, “[This bill] protect[s] companies that produce safe pesticides critical to agriculture in Idaho and beyond.” Idaho Press continues,” Sen. Harris said the bill does not restrict lawsuits against pesticide manufacturers for a number of claims, including product defects, drift or misapplication, or if the manufacturer fraudulently conceals known facts about the product.”  

While other causes of action are often pursued, the overwhelming majority of successful cases for pesticide injury lawsuits fall under “failure-to-warn" claims. Brigit Rollins, a staff attorney at the National Agricultural Law Center, describes this liability framework as, “a type of civil tort that is frequently raised in products liability cases. Unlike negligence and design defect...failure to warn does not argue that a product has physical faults. Instead, a plaintiff typically raises failure to warn claims to allege that a product manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions about the safe use of a product.” Under the new push in several state legislatures, this legal framework would be moot, rendering victims around the United States without effective legal recourse and releasing industry actors such as Bayer from billions of dollars in ongoing and future settlements. As of 2022, Bayer settled over 1,000 lawsuits paying out approximately $11 billion and faces an additional 30,000 lawsuits pending. 

Glyphosate litigation is a notable example of why the dependence on EPA's labels provides inadequate protection—in this case, for users of the pesticide, but also for neighboring farmsfarmworkers and bystandersconsumers of contaminated food and water, and the biosphere. Legislators who choose to restrict the right of injured parties to seek recompense from pesticide manufacturers are doing their constituents a tremendous disservice.

>>Tell your state legislators to protect the right of citizens to seek redress against pesticide manufacturers from harm caused by their products.

The targets for this Action are the U.S. state legislatures, herein named via state law as the State Legislature, Legislature, General Assembly, General Court, and/or Legislative Assembly.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Letter to state legislators:

I am writing to ask you to reject any legislation that may be introduced in the state legislature to shield pesticide and toxic chemical manufacturers from lawsuits when users of their products are injured from their exposure to the chemicals. Legislation like this is popping up around the country and is unfair to people who have been harmed, despite their compliance with product labels. As you may know, numerous cases against Bayer/Monsanto involving the weed killer glyphosate (RoundupTM) have resulted in large jury awards and settlements for those who have been harmed. The manufacturer has appealed verdicts to the U.S. Supreme Court twice and has been rebuffed each time, so they are now asking states to prevent victims from seeking compensation. Although sponsors of these bills claim that the pesticide label is a sufficient warning, users have been misled by advertising touting the products’ safety.

As an example of such legislation, a bill recently rejected by the Idaho Senate would have provided legal protection to pesticide manufacturers from “failure-to-warn" liability. This legal approach has been pivotal for pesticide users seeking redress from exposure to glyphosate-based herbicide products such as Roundup as well as other toxic pesticide products. Proponents of SB 1245 argue, “[This bill] protect[s] companies that produce safe pesticides critical to agriculture in Idaho and beyond.” Idaho Press continues,” Sen. Harris said the bill does not restrict lawsuits against pesticide manufacturers for a number of claims, including product defects, drift or misapplication, or if the manufacturer fraudulently conceals known facts about the product.”

While other causes of action are often pursued, the overwhelming majority of successful cases for pesticide injury lawsuits fall under “failure-to-warn" claims. Brigit Rollins, a staff attorney at the National Agricultural Law Center, describes this liability framework as, “a type of civil tort that is frequently raised in products liability cases. Unlike negligence and design defect...failure to warn does not argue that a product has physical faults. Instead, a plaintiff typically raises failure to warn claims to allege that a product manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions about the safe use of a product.” Under the new push in several state legislatures, this legal framework would be moot, rendering victims without effective legal recourse and releasing industry actors such as Bayer from billions of dollars in ongoing and future settlements. As of 2022, Bayer settled over 1,000 lawsuits paying out approximately $11 billion and faces an additional 30,000 lawsuits pending.

Glyphosate litigation is a notable example of why the dependence on EPA’s labels provides inadequate protection—in this case, for users of the pesticide, but also for neighboring farms, farmworkers and bystanders, consumers of contaminated food and water, and the biosphere. Legislators who choose to restrict the right of injured parties to seek recompense from pesticide manufacturers are doing their constituents a tremendous disservice.

I urge you to reject such legislation restricting the rights of injured parties in our state—whether they be users of the pesticide, neighboring farms, farmworkers, landscapers, bystanders, consumers of contaminated food and water, or defenders of nature—to recover damages from pesticide manufacturers.

Thank you.

02/17/2024 — Tell Congress To Protect Farmers and the Public from PFAS

The use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in industrial and commercial applications has led to widespread contamination of water and biosolids used for fertilizer, poisoning tens of millions of acres of land and posing a significant threat to the biosphere, public health, gardens, parks, and agricultural systems. Farmers and rural communities, in particular, bear the brunt of this contamination, as it affects their drinking water, soil quality, and livestock health.  

>>Tell Congress that the Farm Bill must include the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act and the Healthy H2O Act to protect farmers and rural communities from PFAS contamination. 

Led by Chellie Pingree (D-ME), U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Susan Collins (R-ME), a bipartisan and bicameral bill—the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act—has been introduced to provide assistance and relief to those affected by PFAS. A second bill, the Healthy H2O Act, introduced by Representatives Pingree and David Rouzer (R-NC) and Senators Baldwin and Collins, provides grants for water testing and treatment technology directly to individuals and non-profits in rural communities. 

There are more than 9,000 synthetic (human-made) chemical compounds in the PFAS family, which includes the most well-known subcategories, PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). These PFAS compounds have been dubbed “forever chemicals” for their persistence in the environment (largely because they comprise chains of bonded fluorine–carbon atoms, those bonds being among the strongest ever created). PFAS contamination of drinking water, surface and groundwater, waterways, soils, and the food supply, among other sources, is a ubiquitous and concerning contaminant across the globe. PFAS contamination of drinking water resources is a serious and growing issue for virtually all U.S. states, as Environmental Working Group (EWG) demonstrates via its interactive map, and for hydrologic ecosystems around the world

The widespread exposure to these compounds arises from multiple sources: 

  • Contamination of drinking water and wastewater treatment resulting in fertilizers produced from biosolids (processed output from treatment plants), as well as residues in food packaging some pesticides; 
  • extensive “legacy” (historic) use in fabric and leather coatings, household cleaning products, firefighting foams, stain-resistant carpeting, and other products; 
  • historic and current industrial uses in the aerospace, automotive, construction, and electronics sectors; and 
  • current uses in many personal care products (e.g., shampoo, dental flosses, makeup, nail polish, some hand sanitizers, sunscreens); water-and-stain-proof and -resistant fabrics and carpeting; food packaging; and non-stick cookware, among others. 

Although some of these uses and resulting contamination have been phased out, many persist, including several related to food processing and packaging. The flooding of the materials stream with thousands of persistent synthetic PFAS compounds since their first uses in the 1950s allows them to remain widespread in the environment and in human bodies. People can be exposed to PFAS compounds in a variety of ways, including occupationally, through food sources, via drinking contaminated water (another enormous emerging issue; see below), ingesting contaminated dust or soil, breathing contaminated air, and using products that contain, or are packaged in materials that use, the chemicals. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes, “[B]ecause of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, many PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world and are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment. PFAS are found in water, air, fish, and soil at locations across the nation and the globe. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to some PFAS in the environment may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals.”

Among the potential health risks of some PFAS compounds for humans are: 

  • impacts on the immune system (including decreased vaccine responses); 
  • endocrine disruption; 
  • reproductive impacts, including lowered infant birth weight; 
  • developmental delays in children; 
  • increased risk of hypertension, including in pregnant people (eclampsia); 
  • alterations to liver enzymes; 
  • increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular; 
  • increase in circulatory cholesterol levels; 
  • increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases (via exposure during pregnancy); and 
  • possible increased risk of COVID-19 infection and severity

>>Tell Congress that the Farm Bill must include the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act and the Healthy H2O Act to protect farmers and rural communities from PFAS contamination. 

After years of advocate pressure, EPA has begun to take action under its PFAS Strategic Roadmap—including “designat[ing] two of the most widely used per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances [PFOA and PFOS] as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as 'Superfund;'” issuing interim updated drinking water health advisories for PFOA and PFOS); issuing final health advisories on two others that had been considered “replacement” chemicals for manufacturing uses—perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (the so-called “GenX chemicals”). 

PFAS compounds have been found to contaminate water and irrigation sources, and soils themselves — often through the use of fertilizers made from so-called “biosludge” (biosolids) from local waste treatment plants. In addition, these plants may discharge millions of gallons of wastewater into waterways, contaminating them; current waste and water treatment generally does not eliminate PFAS compounds from the treated effluent water. Biosolids and wastewater have long been sources of exposure concerns related to pesticides, industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and household chemicals; PFAS contamination is now rising as a specific and concerning addition to that nasty list. 

These forever (and perhaps “everywhere”) compounds may be contaminating nearly 20 million acres of productive agricultural land in the U.S. A significant portion of farmers, perhaps 5%, is using biosludge from local treatment plants as fertilizer on their acreage. The use of biosludge was thought by many, a decade ago, to be a sensible use of the waste products from treatment; it was even encouraged by many state agricultural department programs, but now it is recognized that these products present threats when spread on fields that produce food—or anywhere that presents the possibility of human, organism, or environmental exposures to potentially toxic PFAS compounds. Notably, there are currently no federal requirements to test such sludge “fertilizers” for the presence of PFAS. 

Recognizing the impacts on the agricultural sector from PFAS, the state of Maine has taken the lead in both state and federal efforts to support farmers who have been affected by PFAS contamination, including the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act and the Healthy H2O Act.

In short, these bills would achieve the following: 

  • The Healthy H2O Act addresses PFAS contamination in water supplies by providing funding for water testing, treatment, and remediation. By allocating resources to support the implementation of effective PFAS filtration systems, it can ensure that farmers and rural communities have access to clean and safe water, protecting both human health and agricultural productivity. 
  • The Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act provides financial assistance and support to farmers affected by PFAS contamination. By establishing a comprehensive assistance program, we can help farmers mitigate the economic burdens resulting from PFAS-related disruptions and implement necessary remediation efforts. Additionally, this act supports research and education initiatives to enhance farmers' awareness and understanding of PFAS risks and best management practices. 

Meanwhile, we must not lose sight of the fact that PFAS chemicals are not the only legacy contaminants. Others include wood preservatives, DDT, dioxins, and the termiticide chlordane. Unfortunately, some of these continue to be added to the environment, sometimes inadvertently, but also intentionally, particularly through pesticide use. 

>>Tell Congress that the Farm Bill must include the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act and the Healthy H2O Act to protect farmers and rural communities from PFAS contamination.

The targets for this Action are the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Letter to Senators with request to cosponsor 

I am writing to urge you to cosponsor S.747, the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act, and S. 806, the Healthy H2O Act—and push for their inclusion in the Farm Bill—in order to help farmers who have been impacted by PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination. As indicated by the title of the bill, farmers have often been “hit with” legacy contaminants through no fault of their own, and the bill will authorize $500 million over FY 2023-2027 to the U.S Department of Agriculture to help farmers, including: more capacity for PFAS testing for soil or water sources; blood monitoring for individuals to make informed decisions about their health; equipment to ensure a farm remains profitable during or after known PFAS contamination; relocation of a commercial farm if the land is no longer viable; alternative cropping systems or remediation strategies; educational programs for farmers experiencing PFAS contamination; research on soil and water remediation systems, and the viability of those systems for farms; and improving rural drinking water. This money, if appropriated, comes from taxpayers, not those responsible for the contamination. 

PFAS chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals,” are legacy contaminants whose historical use, including many decades ago in some instances, has led to their toxic persistence in the environment and in organisms. However, PFAS chemicals are not the only legacy contaminants. Others include wood preservatives, DDT, dioxins, and the termiticide chlordane. Unfortunately, some of these continue to be added to the environment, sometimes inadvertently, but also intentionally, particularly through pesticide use. 

Since these legacy “forever chemicals” continue to be added to the environment, it is particularly important to stop their use. Many of them, like PFAS, are endocrine disrupting chemicals that have not been adequately restricted. Thus, while I urge you to pass these bills offering relief to farmers harmed by PFAS, we must also do all that we can to prevent further contamination. 

I urge you to use your oversight of EPA to ensure that persistent toxic pesticides and other chemicals are no longer allowed to be released into the environment. Ensure that EPA carries out its responsibility to ensure that PFAS and other endocrine disruptors are not released into the environment. 

Thank you. 

Letter to Senate sponsors/cosponsors [See below.] 

Thank you for cosponsoring S.747, the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act, and S. 806, the Healthy H2O Act, to help farmers who have been impacted by the scourge of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals. Please seek to have the provisions of these bill incorporated into the Farm Bill. As indicated by the title of the first bill, farmers have often been “hit with” legacy contaminants through no fault of their own, and the bill authorize $500 million over FY 2023-2027 to the U.S Department of Agriculture to help farmers, including: more capacity for PFAS testing for soil or water sources; blood monitoring for individuals to make informed decisions about their health; equipment to ensure a farm remains profitable during or after known PFAS contamination; relocation of a commercial farm if the land is no longer viable; alternative cropping systems or remediation strategies; educational programs for farmers experiencing PFAS contamination; research on soil and water remediation systems, and the viability of those systems for farms; and improving rural drinking water. This money, if appropriated, comes from taxpayers, not those responsible for the contamination. 

Again, please help to ensure that these pieces of legislation become part of the Farm Bill. 

However, PFAS chemicals are not the only legacy contaminants. Others include wood preservatives, DDT, dioxins, and the termiticide chlordane. Unfortunately, some of these continue to be added to the environment, sometimes inadvertently, but also intentionally, particularly through pesticide use. 

I urge you to use your oversight of EPA to ensure that persistent toxic chemicals are no longer allowed to be released into the environment. Ensure that EPA carries out its responsibility to ensure that PFAS and other endocrine disruptors are not released into the environment. 

Thank you. 

Letter to Representatives with request to cosponsor 

I am writing to urge you to cosponsor H.R. 1517, the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act, and H.R. 1721, the Healthy H2O Act—and push for their inclusion in the Farm Bill—in order to help farmers who have been impacted by the scourge of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals. As indicated by the title of the bill, farmers have often been “hit with” legacy contaminants through no fault of their own, and the bill will authorize $500 million over FY 2023-2027 to the U.S Department of Agriculture to help farmers, including: more capacity for PFAS testing for soil or water sources; blood monitoring for individuals to make informed decisions about their health; equipment to ensure a farm remains profitable during or after known PFAS contamination; relocation of a commercial farm if the land is no longer viable; alternative cropping systems or remediation strategies; educational programs for farmers experiencing PFAS contamination; research on soil and water remediation systems, and the viability of those systems for farms; and improving rural drinking water. This money, if appropriated, comes from taxpayers, not those responsible for the contamination. 

Again, please help to ensure that these pieces legislation become part of the Farm Bill. 

PFAS chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals,” are legacy contaminants whose historical use, including many decades ago in some instances, has led to their toxic persistence in the environment and in organisms. However, PFAS chemicals are not the only legacy contaminants. Others include wood preservatives, DDT, dioxins, and the termiticide chlordane. Unfortunately, some of these continue to be added to the environment, sometimes inadvertently, but also intentionally, particularly through pesticide use. 

Since these legacy “forever chemicals” continue to be added to the environment, it is particularly important to stop their use. Many of them, like PFAS, are endocrine disrupting chemicals that have not been adequately restricted. Thus, while I urge you to pass these bills offering relief to farmers harmed by PFAS, we must also do all that we can to prevent further contamination. 

I urge you to use your oversight of EPA to ensure that persistent toxic pesticides and other chemicals are no longer allowed to be released into the environment. Ensure that EPA carries out its responsibility to ensure that PFAS and other endocrine disruptors are not released into the environment. 

Thank you. 

Letter to Representative sponsors/cosponsors 

Thank you for cosponsoring H.R. 1517, the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act, and H.R. 1721, the Healthy H2O Act, to help farmers who have been impacted by the scourge of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals. As indicated by the title of the first bill, farmers have often been “hit with” legacy contaminants through no fault of their own, and the bill authorize $500 million over FY 2023-2027 to the U.S Department of Agriculture to help farmers, including: more capacity for PFAS testing for soil or water sources; blood monitoring for individuals to make informed decisions about their health; equipment to ensure a farm remains profitable during or after known PFAS contamination; relocation of a commercial farm if the land is no longer viable; alternative cropping systems or remediation strategies; educational programs for farmers experiencing PFAS contamination; research on soil and water remediation systems, and the viability of those systems for farms; and improving rural drinking water. This money, if appropriated, comes from taxpayers, not those responsible for the contamination. 

Again, please help to ensure that these pieces of legislation become part of the Farm Bill. 

However, PFAS chemicals are not the only legacy contaminants. Others include wood preservatives, DDT, dioxins, and the termiticide chlordane. Unfortunately, some of these continue to be added to the environment, sometimes inadvertently, but also intentionally, particularly through pesticide use. 

I urge you to use your oversight of EPA to ensure that persistent toxic pesticides and other chemicals are no longer allowed to be released into the environment. Ensure that EPA carries out its responsibility to ensure that PFAS and other endocrine disruptors are not released into the environment. 

Thank you. 

Senate cosponsors of S.747 (Sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins [R-ME]: Sen. King, Angus S., Jr. [I-ME]*, Sen. Shaheen, Jeanne [D-NH]*, Sen. Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [D-NY], Sen. Hassan, Margaret Wood [D-NH], Sen. Baldwin, Tammy [D-WI], Sen. Sanders, Bernard [I-VT], Sen. Lujan, Ben Ray [D-NM], Sen. Welch, Peter [D-VT], Sen. Heinrich, Martin [D-NM].

Senate cosponsors of S.806 Sponsored by Sen Tammy Baldwin [D-WI]: Sen. Collins, Susan M. [R-ME]*, Sen. Smith, Tina [D-MN]*, Sen. Shaheen, Jeanne [D-NH]*, Sen. King, Angus S., Jr. [I-ME]*, Sen. Wyden, Ron [D-OR], Sen. Padilla, Alex [D-CA], Sen. Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [D-NY], Sen. Lujan, Ben Ray [D-NM], Sen. Welch, Peter [D-VT], Sen. Cardin, Benjamin L. [D-MD].

Representative cosponsors of HR.1517 Sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree [D-ME]: Rep. Golden, Jared F. [D-ME-2]*, Rep. Leger Fernandez, Teresa [D-NM-3]*, Rep. Slotkin, Elissa [D-MI-7], Rep. Perez, Marie Gluesenkamp [D-WA-3], Rep. Courtney, Joe [D-CT-2], Rep. Fitzpatrick, Brian K. [R-PA-1], Rep. Kuster, Ann M. [D-NH-2], Rep. Balint, Becca [D-VT-At Large], Rep. Hoyle, Val T. [D-OR-4].

Representative cosponsors of HR.1721 Sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree [D-ME]: Rep. Rouzer, David [R-NC-7]*, Rep. Gallagher, Mike [R-WI-8]*, Rep. Valadao, David G. [R-CA-22], Rep. McCollum, Betty [D-MN-4], Rep. Fitzpatrick, Brian K. [R-PA-1], Rep. Brown, Shontel M. [D-OH-11], Rep. Slotkin, Elissa [D-MI-7], Rep. Lawler, Michael [R-NY-17], Rep. Harder, Josh [D-CA-9], Rep. Levin, Mike [D-CA-49], Rep. Sorensen, Eric [D-IL-17], Rep. Rose, John W. [R-TN-6], Rep. Schiff, Adam B. [D-CA-30], Rep. Stansbury, Melanie Ann [D-NM-1], Rep. Vasquez, Gabe [D-NM-2], Rep. Van Orden, Derrick [R-WI-3], Rep. Molinaro, Marcus J. [R-NY-19], Rep. Caraveo, Yadira [D-CO-8], Rep. Courtney, Joe [D-CT-2], Rep. Craig, Angie [D-MN-2], Rep. Salinas, Andrea [D-OR-6], Rep. Crockett, Jasmine [D-TX-30], Rep. Kuster, Ann M. [D-NH-2], Rep. Perez, Marie Gluesenkamp [D-WA-3], Rep. McGovern, James P. [D-MA-2], Rep. Matsui, Doris O. [D-CA-7], Rep. Davis, Donald G. [D-NC-1], Rep. Tokuda, Jill N. [D-HI-2], Rep. Pappas, Chris [D-NH-1], Rep. Kilmer, Derek [D-WA-6].

02/16/2024 — Tell Your Senators to Support Efforts Against Pesticide Preemption

Please urge your senators to sign on and oppose efforts in Congress to take away local governments' ability to protect our residents and workers from harmful pesticides.

Targeted Action: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

There is still ongoing movement in federal Farm Bill negotiations to preempt local communities from restricting pesticides. So, we're requesting that you urge your senators to sign on to a “Dear Colleague” letter opposing federal preemption of local authority on pesticide use. The Congressional letter emphasizes the importance of preserving the rights of state, county, and local governments to protect their communities and enact policies that align with local needs. The letter argues that curtailing these powers would undermine public safety and jeopardize environmental and public health standards. 

It is critical that local governments have the authority to adopt pesticide restrictions that are more protective than those of the federal government, as affirmed by the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier. The court found that federal pesticide law (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act—FIFRA), as currently written, does not preempt local authority.  

As the Senate continues its work, please urge your senators to reject any and all harmful pesticide policy riders that would diminish local authority.

For more information, click here for additional background and prior coverage in the House!

Senators can directly access the letter to sign-on electronically via QUILL.

The target for this Action is the U.S. Senate.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Letter to U.S. Senators Requesting Sign-On

I am writing to ask you to join with U.S. Senator Corey Booker and others in signing on to a “Dear Colleague” letter opposing any effort in the 2023 Farm Bill, an annual appropriations bill, or other legislation amendments that will limit local and state authority to protect our community from toxic pesticide exposure. The letter expresses strong opposition to any provisions or amendments to any legislative vehicle that limits existing state and local authority to regulate pesticides—including restrictions on state labeling requirements or state and local regulatory processes. This is a critically important issue of protecting our families’ health, our environment, and the democratic process to set policies that best suit our local needs.

My request grows out of my strong opposition to any efforts to limit longstanding state and local authority to protect people, animals, and the environment from pesticides. As you know, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) establishes the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to oversee the registration, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides in the United States. Congress has long understood FIFRA to set a federal floor for pesticide policy without impeding state, county, and local governments’ authority to enact supplementary standards. Hundreds of towns and cities have adopted laws and ordinances to keep their communities safe from pesticides. These include laws to restrict pesticide use at schools, parks, playgrounds, and workplaces, and protect drinking water supplies, pollinators, and wildlife. Overall, local authority also permits communities to address conditions unique to their jurisdictions, from vulnerable population groups to sensitive ecosystems.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1991 ruled that democratically elected local governments hold the power, under our current law, to address the specific needs of their communities. State and local governments are often best positioned to respond quickly to emerging risks within our communities, and proposals to weaken our ability to respond could have a significant adverse effect on public safety.

The Dear Colleague letter expresses strong opposition to language in a House bill, H.R. 4288, the Agricultural Labeling Uniformity Act, which forbids states from requiring manufacturers to disclose known risks about their pesticide products, such as carcinogenicity. This undermines transparency, informed choice in the market, and consumer redress when there is a failure to warn.

I again urge you to sign on to Senator Booker’s “Dear Colleague” letter. Senators may sign on through this QUILL link: https://quill.senate.gov/letters/letter/14965/opt-in/view/e04e0ed9-d650-4262-9971-978b715c9b8b/.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. I look forward to you letting me know that you are taking action on this critical matter.

Thank you to Sen. Booker (sponsor) and Sen Van Hollen, Jr.

Thank you for leading the charge with your “Dear Colleague” letter opposing any effort in the 2023 Farm Bill, an annual appropriations bill, or other legislation amendments that will limit local and state authority to protect our community from toxic pesticide exposure. I appreciate your strong opposition to any provisions or amendments to any legislative vehicle that limits existing state and local authority to regulate pesticides—including restrictions on state labeling requirements or state and local regulatory processes. This is a critically important issue of protecting our families’ health, our environment, and the democratic process to set policies that best suit our local needs.

I strongly oppose any efforts to limit longstanding state and local authority to protect people, animals, and the environment from pesticides. I appreciate your recognition of the hundreds of towns and cities that have adopted laws and ordinances to keep their communities safe from pesticides. These include laws to restrict pesticide use at schools, parks, playgrounds, and workplaces, and protect drinking water supplies, pollinators, and wildlife. As you know, local authority also permits communities to address conditions unique to their jurisdictions, from vulnerable population groups to sensitive ecosystems.

We know from the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that democratically elected local governments hold the power, under our current law, to address the specific needs of their communities. And, we know historically that state and local governments are often best positioned to respond quickly to emerging risks within our communities, and proposals to weaken our ability to respond could have a significant adverse effect on public safety.

I appreciate the Dear Colleague letter expressing strong opposition to language in a House bill, H.R. 4288, the Agricultural Labeling Uniformity Act, which forbids states from requiring manufacturers to disclose known risks about their pesticide products, such as carcinogenicity. This undermines transparency, informed choice in the market, and consumer redress when there is a failure to warn.

Thank you for your leadership on this important effort to protect health and the environment.

02/10/2024 — EPA Taking Public Comment on Scientific Integrity Amid Criticism by IG and Whistleblowers

The public comment period closed on February 23, 2024, at 11:59 PM Eastern!
Due to updates to the Regulations website, we are now able to offer a click-and-submit form
to the Regulations docket! Please fill out the form linked to submit!

In the wake of intense criticism of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's scientific integrity, the agency has announced updates to its scientific integrity guidelines and is asking for public comment until February 23, 2024. As the agency acknowledges in its 2012 Scientific Integrity Policy: “EPA's ability to protect human health and the environment depends upon the integrity of the science on which it relies. The EPA Scientific Integrity Policy provides both a vision and a roadmap for scientific integrity at the Agency. Issued in 2012, the Policy builds upon EPA's significant earlier scientific integrity efforts and addresses four areas: Promotion of a culture of scientific integrity at EPA; Release of scientific information to the public; Peer review and the use of federal advisory committees; Professional development of government scientists.” 

>> Tell EPA to address critical standards of scientific integrity at the agency.

It is one thing to have a policy—it is another to implement it with integrity. The EPA's Office of the Inspector General last year (2023), in its report on perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (a PFAS chemical), concluded that EPA's 2021 PFBS Toxicity Assessment failed to “uphold the agency's commitments to scientific integrity and information quality,” and that the agency's actions “left the public vulnerable to potential negative impacts on human health.” At the time of the report—The EPA's January 2021 PFBS Toxicity Assessment Did Not Uphold the Agency's Commitments to Scientific Integrity and Information Qualityagency officials disagreed with all five recommendations of the inspector general. However, EPA did provide very general aspirational responses to the OIG's report, which includes the updating of its scientific integrity policy in this latest proposal open to public comment. 

Earlier in 2021, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) had filed complaints with EPA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on behalf of four EPA whistleblower scientists, who said that, during the Trump administration, risk assessments for both new and existing chemicals were improperly changed by agency managers to eliminate or reduce risk calculations. At the time, Beyond Pesticides covered a report in The Intercept that examined the multiple aspects of undue industry influence on the regulation of pesticide chemicals. While the PEER complaints address regulation of toxic chemicals not classified as pesticides, the misconduct identified by OIG and The Intercept represents an agency-wide problem. Nevertheless, EPA considers its updated proposed policy an enhancement of existing processes in place, saying, “This policy replaces the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 2012 Scientific Integrity Policy and reaffirms and reestablishes the expectations and procedures needed to maintain scientific integrity at EPA. It also reaffirms the scope and role of a Scientific Integrity Official (SIO), a standing committee of Agency-wide deputy SIOs (DSIOs), and establishes the role of the Chief Scientist.” 

EPA traces its history on scientific integrity back to 1983 and the “Fishbowl Memo” issued by the first EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus. Ruckelshaus, according to the agency, established a culture of integrity and openness for all employees by promising EPA would operate "in a fishbowl" and would "attempt to communicate with everyone from the environmentalists to those we regulate, and we will do so as openly as possible." Then, in 1999, EPA developed Principles of Scientific Integrity in consultation with a group, the National Partnership Council, which it describes as "a partnership of Agency labor unions and management." This document, EPA says, “set forth the Agency's commitment to conducting science objectively, presenting results fairly and accurately, and avoiding conflicts of interest.” Then, in 2003, EPA issued a policy and procedures to address “fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism.” The following events included a 2009 Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity, a 2010 Office of Science and Technology, followed by the agency's first Scientific Integrity Policy in 2012 and the appointment of the first full-time scientific integrity official in 2013. The SIO is a senior career employee who is tasked with championing and promoting “scientific integrity throughout the Agency, and to oversee implementation and iterative improvement of scientific integrity policies and processes.”

[The current SIO, since 2013, is Francesca Frifo, PhD[email protected]—with office hours on Wednesdays from 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM Eastern.]

>> Tell EPA to address critical standards of scientific integrity at the agency.

Then, nearly a decade after the establishment of the scientific integrity office, there was the issuance of the 2022 National Science and Technology Council Scientific Integrity Fast Track Action Committee report, Protecting the Integrity of Government Science (SI-FTAC Report) and the National Science and Technology Council 2023 Framework for Federal Scientific Integrity Policy and Practice. Most recently, EPA has adopted the official federal definition of scientific integrity from the National Science and Technology Council's 2023 Framework for Federal Scientific Integrity Policy and Practice:  

Scientific integrity is the adherence to professional practices, ethical behavior, and the principles of honesty and objectivity when conducting, managing, using the results of, and communicating about science and scientific activities. Inclusivity, transparency, and protection from inappropriate influence are hallmarks of scientific integrity. 

Despite the extensive efforts of EPA, as outlined above, scientific fraud in support of regulatory decisions has plagued the Office of Pesticide Programs for decades. During the 1970's and 1980's, there was the Industrial Biotest and Craven Laboratories scandals that brought to public attention fraudulent laboratory animal test data that supported the registration and tolerances (acceptable residues), respectively, of pesticides. At best, the scandals showed that EPA had inadequate oversight and audit procedures of those who produced the scientific data it used for pesticide registration. At worst, it represented EPA turning a blind eye to a culture of corruption. Things blew up in 1984 when Congress held hearings on another corruption blow-up dubbed the “cut-and-paste” scandal, where EPA staff were found to use verbatim chemical company toxicology review analyses, pasting them on to EPA letterhead as if they were independently reviewed by Office of Pesticide Programs staff.  

But, it is the more recent disclosure that raises modern-day concerns about scientific integrity at EPA. At the 2018 Beyond Pesticides 36th National Pesticide Forum, Carey Gilliam, a veteran journalist, then-research director for U.S. Right to Know, and author of Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, told participants:  

As a result of . . . litigation [associated with health effects of glyphosate/Roundup], Monsanto is forced to turn over millions of pages of internal reports, documents, emails, memos, and different studies. When you look at those along with documents that I and my colleagues at U.S. Right to Know have obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and various state universities, it's a pretty incredible picture of collusion, deception, and deceit. 

The documents show all of these different things: ghost-written research papers that assert glyphosate's safety for publication and regulatory review; alternative assessments provided for studies that indicate harm. So if a regulator is looking at a study and says, “Gosh, this looks like it causes cancer,” Monsanto will then give them the rationale for how to interpret the data in a different way. They have networks of European and U.S. scientists that push the safety message to lawmakers and regulators. They appear to be independent, so they appear to be more authoritative and authentic. But behind the scenes we see documents that show that Monsanto is helping them or telling them what to say, or assigning them a task. 

They provide the EPA with talking points to address. That one got me when I saw that: “Talking points. From Monsanto to the EPA.” 

The influence that Monsanto has had over regulators and the stifling of independent science is, according to Ms. Gilliam, quite astounding. It plays out in successful attempts to squelch or slow down reviews. Click here to watch Ms. Gilliam's Forum presentation.

>> Tell EPA to address critical standards of scientific integrity at the agency.

The target for this Action is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency via Regulations.gov.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Comment to EPA:

Much of what EPA establishes to nurture scientific integrity and honesty of EPA staff is critical to creating a culture of true independent science, which is essential to public trust in the decisions of the agency.

Independent science—EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs does not adequately incorporate into its protocol the independent scientific literature that informs a more robust analytical review of potential adverse health and environmental effects. The integrity of its work products, including the registration of pesticides and registration review, requires the agency to closely track and incorporate into its evaluation emerging science in the independent peer reviewed literature.

Updating protocol to keep pace with new science—In 2018, then-director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Linda Birnbaum, PhD coauthored In PLOS Biology a review article of seven peer-reviewed studies of federal toxics regulation and found that “existing US regulations have not kept pace with scientific advances showing that widely used chemicals cause serious health problems at levels previously assumed to be safe.” The most vulnerable population, our children, face the highest risks.”

Addressing vulnerabilities of those at highest risk—Integrity requires attention to those who are disproportionately affected because of cumulative exposure and all vulnerabilities. For human threats, this requires an assessment of exposure associated with air, land, water, employment, location of residence and schools, and preexisting illnesses. Similarly, the constellation of ecosystem effects associated with endocrine disruptors, for example, requires EPA to address its failure to evaluate the full effect of pesticide use and disposal and undermines the scientific integrity of the agency’s registration of pesticides. The same holds for all pesticide active ingredients, inert ingredients, contaminants, and metabolites, if final agency actions are to be viewed as having scientific integrity. The lack of attention to synergistic effects adds to the limitations for which the agency is not transparent. Without a robust scientific review process, the value of the agency’s regulations and pesticide registrations lack integrity.

Safer alternatives in calculating unreasonable risk—Decisions that implement the standard to protect against unreasonable adverse effects under FIFRA must consider the availability of alternatives that may present lower risk. A failure to evaluate alternative practices and products to the proposed or existing pesticide registration results in a decision that lacks scientific integrity.

Disclose uncertainties associated with agency science or data gaps—Under the principle of transparency, a failure to disclose scientific uncertainties to the public lacks integrity.

Criminal penalties needed—The failure of EPA staff to meet the scientific integrity standards as set by agency policy, in light of the harm that is caused to human health and the environment, rises to the status of a criminal act and should be enforced as such.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

02/08/2024 — EPA Must Not Exempt Pesticide-Treated Seeds and Paint from Thorough Examination

LATE-BREAKING Action! Comment period closed on FRIDAY, February 9, at 11:59 PM Eastern!

Due to updates to the Regulations website, we are now able to offer a click-and-submit form to the Regulations docket! Please fill out the form below to submit!

EPA is accepting comments through Friday on its long-held policy of exempting “treated objects,” including seeds and paint, from pesticide registration. Although EPA does not ask the most important question—“Should pesticide-treated seeds and paint be exempt from the scrutiny given pesticide products?”—this comment period offers an opportunity to respond to EPA's questions and express our viewpoints. 

>>Tell EPA not to exempt pesticide-treated seeds and paint from thorough examination.

Coating seeds with pesticides is one of the most commonly used application methods—135.3 to 156.64 million acres of corn, soybean, and cotton acres were planted with insecticide and fungicide seed treatments in 2023, and approximately 46-57% of planted wheat seed was treated from 2012-2014. Seed treatments are used routinely and preventively—to protect the seed from rotting or, increasingly, as a systemic poison to protect the plant from insects. Routine pesticide applications promote resistance to the pesticide because the pest is constantly exposed, providing a high selection pressure. Preventive pesticide treatments are contrary to even the loosest definition of integrated pest management (IPM) (see Beyond Pesticides and EPA) because the pesticide is applied without knowing whether the pest is present or poses a threat to the crop. Nominally, EPA supports IPM

Although EPA points to the “comprehensive nature of assessments of pesticides that are intended for use in treating seeds which includes assessment of the impact with use of the treated seed,” its allowance of these poisoned seeds has wide-ranging impacts on all organisms and the entire ecosphere. Corn and soybean seed treatments represent the largest uses of neonicotinoids (neonics) in the U.S.—on somewhere between 34% and 50+% of the soybean crop and for nearly all field corn. This contrasts dramatically with metrics from the decade prior to the introduction of neonics to the marketplace, when a mere 5% of soybean acreage was treated with insecticides. Neonics are systemic pesticides that move through a plant's vascular system and are expressed in pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets (drops of sap exuded on the tips or edges of leaves of some vascular plants). They can also persist in the environment—in soil and water—for extended periods and harm the aquatic food web (see here and here).  

Neonics have come under intensive scrutiny in the past decade because of their persistence in the soil, ability to leach into the environment, high water solubility, and potential negative health implications for non-target organisms such as pollinators—especially bees of all sorts—as well as butterflies, bats, and birds. Indeed, a recent Science publication from researchers in Canada demonstrates that “low-level neonic exposure may delay the migrations of songbirds and harm their chances of mating.” Beyond Pesticides' video, Seeds That Poison, offers a succinct primer on the dangers of neonic-coated seeds. 

The actual utility of pesticides to achieve their purported goals is an under-recognized failing of the regulatory review of pesticide compounds for use. A study by Spyridon Mourtzinis et al. published in Scientific Reports exposes the faulty assumptions underlying the use of neonics—the most widely used category of insecticides worldwide. It examined a variety of factors in determining neonic efficacy, including weather patterns, soil pH, precipitation, pest abundance and timing, and yield for three experimental groups: soybeans treated with fungicides only, those treated with fungicides and neonicotinoids, and an untreated control group. Despite broad use, the practice of using fungicide-plus neonicotinoid seed treatment appears to have negligible benefit for most soybean producers. The researchers write, “These results demonstrate that the current widespread prophylactic use of NST [neonicotinoid seed treatment] in the key soybean-producing areas of the U.S. should be re-evaluated by producers and regulators alike.” 

This research finding repeats some of the findings of a 2014 EPA report, which said that use of treated soybean seed provides little-to-no overall benefit in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in soybean production. It notes the lack of observed pest management benefits of planting treated seeds and the disconnect between perceived crop vulnerability and neonicotinoid utility: “throughout most soybean-producing regions of the U.S., the period of pest protection provided by [use of neonic-treated seeds] does not align with [the presence of] economically significant pest populations. Absent economic infestations of pests, there is no opportunity for this plant protection strategy to provide benefit to most producers.” 

Citing other recent studies that have reported “weak relationships between NST use and effectiveness in preserving crop yield,” the authors continue: “A recent multi-state study of management tactics for the key pest in the [Midwest] region, the soybean aphid . . . demonstrated that crop yield benefits and overall economic returns were marginally affected by NST.” 

Thus, if EPA is to truly assess the pesticides used in treating seeds, it must take into account not only biodiversity collapse, including the insect apocalypse, but also the lack of benefits provided by the pesticides. 

Furthermore, the failure of EPA to suggest a means of disposing of spilled and excess treated seed is a fatal flaw. Previously, EPA included additional labeling instructions for management of spilled and excess treated seed in Proposed Interim Decisions (PIDs) and Interim Decisions (IDs) of several chemicals. This labeling included instructions on the collection and burial of spilled treated seed, incorporation of treated seed into soil, limiting the broadcast planting of treated seed, and proper disposal of excess treated seed. Although EPA previously approved labels for oil seed crops that allowed for the use of excess treated seeds in ethanol production, it now believes these measures may not be sufficient to protect against pesticide buildup after ethanol production and its labeling instructions include language to prohibit the use of excess treated seeds for ethanol production. However, given the persistence of neonics and other pesticides in the soil, the incorporation of systemic pesticides into plants, and the subsequent impacts on primary and secondary consumers of those plants, as well as the known propensity to contaminate waterways, any disposal in the soil poses unreasonable adverse effects. 

In addition, this request for comments includes pesticide-treated paints. EPA says that the pesticides in paints are exempt from regulation as pesticides because they are present to protect the paint, and not as an ingredient to protect the painted surface. Regardless of the intention, the presence of the pesticide can be hazardous to the painter through inhalation of fumes (gas) or particulates (in the case of spray application). Others in the vicinity may also be exposed to off-gassing. Clean-up or reuse of paint containers and application equipment may pose an environmental hazard. All of these factors—as well as the need for the pesticide additive—must be considered in the decision of whether to allow the addition of the toxic material to the paint. 

>>Tell EPA not to exempt pesticide-treated seeds and paint from thorough examination.

The target for this Action is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency via Regulations.gov.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Suggested Comments to EPA:

I am commenting as a citizen concerned about the impacts of pesticide-treated seeds and paints on health and the environment. I will address several of the questions posed by EPA.

1. EPA asks whether the treated article exemption should be amended so that treated seed manufacturers would be subject to FIFRA section 7 registration and reporting requirements.

Treated seeds should not be exempt from registration requirements. They should not be used unless it is shown that there are no unreasonable adverse effects associated with their use. If EPA is to truly assess the pesticides used in treating seeds, it must consider not only biodiversity collapse, including the insect apocalypse, but also the lack of benefits provided by the pesticides, as shown by EPA and independent research.

2. EPA asks about available data on the replacement or reduction of other types of pesticides with increasing use of treated seed, saying it would normally address replacement and use reduction on an individual chemical basis, taking into account alternative control strategies to seed treatment.

While many dangers posed by seed treatments are chemical-specific, they are accentuated by the sheer quantity of exposure to soil organisms, herbivores, and secondary consumers, as well as to the aquatic environment. Seed treatment also poses unique risks due to the routine and preventive nature of the application—such as increasing the threat of resistance and violating IPM principles. The near-universal treatment of certain types of seeds makes it almost impossible for organic producers to source untreated conventional seeds. Because EPA does not consider USDA-certified organic production practices and the efficacy of untreated seeds as alternatives, its evaluation of adverse effects associated is inadequate.

3. EPA asks whether additional instructions for spilled seed are needed.

Disposal is a fatal flaw. Given the persistence of neonics and other pesticides in the soil, the incorporation of systemic pesticides into plants, and the subsequent impacts on primary and secondary consumers of those plants, as well as the known propensity to contaminate waterways, any instructions that permit disposal in soil, landfills, or by incineration allow unreasonable adverse effects.

4. EPA requests comment on the severity of inhalation and dermal hazards of the chemicals in treated paint products and how to increase the clarity of the labeling and safe use for the end user and the environment.

Exposure to registered pesticides in treated articles, whether in paint, hairbrushes, cutting boards, fabrics, or underwear, is not safe, but represents a risk like any other pesticide use. If EPA deems the hazards associated with the use of the pesticide in the treated article acceptable, then the agency must require labeling on the treated articles specifying the potential harm associated with exposure to the specific chemical-related hazards, including cancer, neurological and immunological effects, reproductive hazards, respiratory harm, endocrine disrupting effects, as well as a warning to those with any of these preexisting conditions or in treatment for these illnesses. EPA must consider gaseous inhalation exposure, exposure to bystanders, and disposal of residues from cleaning paint containers and application equipment.

5. EPA asks whether use of FIFRA section 3(a) is necessary or appropriate to prevent unreasonable adverse effects on human health and the environment.

Both because of the problems relating to enforceability and the need to determine that pesticide-treated seeds and paints meet the statutory requirement of no unreasonable adverse effects on humans and the environment, these products should not be exempt from the requirement of registration or registration review.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment.

02/03/2024 — EPA Proposal for Endocrine Disruption Testing of Pesticides Is Too Narrow in Scope

The comment period closed on Monday, February 26, 2024, at 11:59 PM Eastern.
Due to updates to the Regulations website, we are now able to offer a click-and-submit form to the Regulations docket! Please fill out the form linked to submit!

After failing to comply with the 1996 Congressional mandate to determine whether pesticides disrupt the endocrine system of humans and other organisms, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is revisiting its approach to the implementation of the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) with a new proposal that falls short of what is required to protect people and ecosystems. The proposal is open for public comment by February 26, 2024.

A detailed examination can be found in draft comments by Beyond Pesticides. 

>>Tell EPA that it must complete comprehensive data analysis concerning endocrine disruption and not register pesticides without it.

Because of its limited scope, the EPA's proposed framework for review of endocrine disrupting properties of pesticides is an abrogation of its responsibilities under the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act/Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FQPA/FFDCA) as well as the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The limitations in EPA's proposal, which do not comply with Congressional intent and statutory mandates, include: (i) applying EDSP to humans only; (ii) focusing on certain pesticide active ingredients only, and; (iii) restricting the types of data used to assess endocrine disruption (ED). The proposal reverses the advice of EPA's Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee (EDSTAC) and the agency's original EDSP implementation policy and science decisions. 

Under FIFRA, a pesticide is presumed to pose an unreasonable risk until reliable data demonstrate otherwise. Moreover, if the agency lacks the data and/or resources to fully evaluate endocrine risks to human health and wildlife, then the agency is obliged to suspend or deny any pesticide registration until it has sufficient data to demonstrate that the pesticide's registration is in compliance with the statutory standard, which is no “unreasonable adverse risk” of endocrine disruption. 

EPA cannot develop a strategy for evaluating pesticides without understanding the history and status of endocrine disruption research, which are summarized in Beyond Pesticides' draft comments. Evidence that synthetic chemicals can mimic or otherwise interfere with natural hormones has existed for over half a century. Although early attention was given to estrogen mimics, it soon became apparent that the homeostatic (stable) function of the endocrine system—which regulates and balances physiological functions—can be disrupted at many sites and hormone systems.  

Endocrine disruption as a phenomenon affecting humans and other species has been critically reviewed by several authors. A common thread across these reviews is the notion that chemicals that may disrupt the endocrine systems of humans and wildlife may be pervasive in contaminating their habitats. A pandemic of endocrine-related disorders can be connected with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, diabetes, obesity, childhood cancers, testicular cancer in young men, infertility, male dysgenesis syndrome, hypospadias, low sperm count, loss of semen volume and sperm quality, and increased risk of testicular and prostate cancer. All these disorders have been increasing in incidence and can be traced back to prenatal exposure to EDCs. 

Endocrine pathways are largely conserved (identical or similar) across species and, thus, are not species—or taxa—specific. It is well known that thyroid endocrinology in particular is well conserved across vertebrate taxa. This includes aspects of thyroid hormone synthesis, metabolism, and mechanisms of action. Thyroid hormones are derived from the thyroid gland through regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis, which is controlled through a complex mechanism of positive and negative feedback regulation. Multiple pathways contribute to the synthesis of thyroid-releasing hormone, including thyroid hormone signaling through feedback mechanisms; leptin and melanocortin signaling; body temperature regulation; and cardiovascular physiology. Each pathway directly targets thyroid-releasing hormone neurons. Based on the similarities sensitivity and requirements of endocrine pathways across vertebrate species, it is well understood that the ecological assays (the frog assay in particular) are often more sensitive and equally relevant to mammalian assays in informing risk assessors of whether a chemical can perturb and cause adverse endocrine outcomes in the human population and vice versa. 

FQPA essentially amends FIFRA to ensure potential endocrine-disrupting effects are considered in agency risk assessments to fulfill the FIFRA mandate that a pesticide registration will not cause unreasonable adverse effects. This applies to humans and wildlife and to all pesticide chemicals as defined in FIFRA, including “all active and pesticide inert ingredients of such pesticide” (21 U.S.C. 231(q)(1)). SDWA adds drinking water contaminants as well. 

In summary, the agency cannot limit EDSP to only humans and conventional pesticide active ingredients without violating the statutory requirements enumerated in FIFRA, FQPA, and SDWA. EPA should make use of all available scientifically relevant endocrine disruption research findings and also be wary of deviating from established international efforts for screening/testing endocrine disruptors that incorporate human and wildlife relevant studies. Recognizing that mammalian data inform potential endocrine disruption in other vertebrate taxa (avian, amphibian, fish) and vice versa, the agency should not decouple the mammalian from other vertebrate assays in EDSP screening.  There are more than 50 different ecological and mammalian assays included in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Conceptual Framework for screening/testing endocrine disrupting effects, and there are additional assays being developed for consideration as well. So, the agency should not limit the range or types of data to be used, but, as FQPA prescribes, use “appropriate validated test systems and other scientifically relevant information.” While currently required data may meet the needs of human risk assessment, it is inadequate to evaluate endocrine effects on wildlife species. It should also be understood that under FIFRA, a pesticide is presumed to pose an unreasonable risk until reliable data demonstrate otherwise. If the agency lacks the data and/or resources to fully evaluate endocrine risks to human health and wildlife, then the agency is obliged to suspend or deny any pesticide registration until the agency has sufficient data to demonstrate no unreasonable adverse endocrine risk per the mandate in FIFRA. Further, it is not the agency but pesticide registrants (manufacturers) that have the burden to demonstrate with adequate data that their products will not pose unreasonable adverse effects, including the inherently presumed endocrine-disrupting effects.

>>Tell EPA that it must complete comprehensive data analysis concerning endocrine disruption and not register pesticides without it.

The target for this Action is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency via Regulations.gov.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Suggested comments to EPA:

EPA’s proposed endocrine disruptor strategy (EDSP) abrogates its responsibilities under the Food Quality Protection Act/Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FQPA/FFDCA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Limiting the scope of the EDSP to humans, certain pesticide active ingredients only, and limiting the types of data to assess endocrine disruption (ED) effects is contrary to the Congressional intent and requirements in these statutes. It is also a reversal of the Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee advice and EPA’s original EDSP implementation policy and science decisions. 

EPA’s strategy for evaluating pesticides requires understanding the history and status of endocrine disruption research. Evidence that synthetic chemicals can interfere with natural hormones has existed for over half a century. Although early attention was given to estrogen mimics, it was soon apparent that the homeostatic function of the endocrine system can be disrupted at many sites and hormone systems.  

Many authors have documented that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may be pervasive in contaminating the ecosphere. A pandemic of endocrine-related disorders—attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, diabetes, obesity, childhood cancers, testicular cancer in young men, infertility, male dysgenesis syndrome, hypospadias, low sperm count, loss of semen volume and sperm quality, and increased risk of testicular and prostate cancer—may be related to EDCs.  

Endocrine pathways are largely conserved across species and thus are not species—or taxa—specific. Therefore, it is well understood that the ecological assays (the frog assay in particular) are often more sensitive and equally relevant to mammalian assays in determining whether a chemical can perturb and cause adverse endocrine outcomes in the human population and vice versa. 

In summary, EPA cannot limit EDSP to only humans and conventional pesticide active ingredients without violating the statutory requirements of FIFRA, FQPA, and SDWA. EPA must use all available scientifically relevant endocrine disruption research findings and avoid deviating from established international efforts that incorporate human and wildlife studies. Recognizing that mammalian data inform potential endocrine disruption in other vertebrates (avian, amphibian, fish) and vice versa, the agency should not decouple the mammalian from other vertebrate assays in EDSP screening. With more than 50 different ecological and mammalian assays included in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development Conceptual Framework for screening/testing endocrine disrupting effects and additional assays in development, EPA must not limit the range or types of data to be used, but as FQPA prescribes, use “appropriate validated test systems and other scientifically relevant information.” Currently required data may meet the needs of human risk assessment but is inadequate to evaluate endocrine effects on wildlife species.  

FQPA amends FIFRA to ensure potential endocrine-disrupting effects are considered in risk assessments to fulfill the FIFRA mandate that pesticide use will not cause unreasonable adverse effects. This applies to humans and wildlife and to all pesticide chemicals as defined in FIFRA, including all active and inert ingredients. Under FIFRA, a pesticide is presumed to pose an unreasonable risk until reliable data demonstrate otherwise. If EPA lacks the data and/or resources to fully evaluate endocrine risks to human health and wildlife, then the agency is obliged to suspend or deny any pesticide registration until the agency has sufficient data to demonstrate no unreasonable adverse endocrine risk.  

Thank you. 

01/27/2024 — EPA’s Biological Evaluation Inadequate to Protect Endangered Species from Rodenticides

Comments are due by Tuesday, February 13, 2024, at 11:59 PM Eastern!
Due to updates to the Regulations website, we are now able to offer a click-and-submit form to the Regulations docket! Please fill out the linked form to submit!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Draft Biological Evaluation (BE), Effects Determinations, and Mitigation Strategy for Federally Listed and Proposed Endangered and Threatened Species and Designated and Proposed Critical Habitats for 11 Rodenticides, is inadequate—both in its evaluation of risk and measures to mitigate risk—and should not be used as the basis registration of these rodenticides.

A detailed examination can be found in draft comments by Beyond Pesticides. 

>>Tell EPA to improve its protection of endangered species from rodenticides.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is one of the most effective conservation laws globally, protecting 1,662 species in the U.S. and 638 species elsewhere on Earth. Over the past five decades, the ESA has played a pivotal role in preventing these extinctions by safeguarding the most critically endangered species within biological communities. The ESA establishes a framework to categorize species as "endangered" or "threatened," granting them specific protections, but the goal of the ESA is to address the broader issue of biodiversity loss by protecting habitats of species most at risk, or, as stated in the ESA, to “Provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species, and to take such steps as may be appropriate to achieve the purposes of the treaties and conventions set forth in subsection (a) of this section.” 

Under the ESA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to consult with relevant agencies when registering chemicals to assess their impact on endangered species. Unfortunately, EPA has consistently fallen short in fulfilling this statutory obligation, as highlighted over years of reporting by Beyond Pesticides. EPA admits that its Pesticide Program “has been unable to keep pace with its ESA workload, resulting not only in inadequate protections for listed species but also litigation against the Agency.”  

Pesticide use is a major cause of declining biodiversity, which is manifested in extinctions, endangered species, and species vulnerable to environmental disturbances—including climate change, habitat fragmentation, and toxic chemicals. If EPA is serious about protecting biodiversity, it must look first to the ways it has created the crisis in the first place. 

In this BE, EPA predicts the potential likelihood of future jeopardy for only 73 of the 136 species it judged may be affected and the potential likelihood of future adverse modification for only four of the 38 “likely to be adversely affected” critical habitats. It predicted potential jeopardy for 24 mammal species for bait station use, 31 for burrow use, and 35 for broadcast applications. For birds, EPA predicts jeopardy for six species from bait station use, one for burrow use, and 30 for broadcast applications. For reptiles, EPA predicts jeopardy for just four species from bait station use and just one species for broadcast applications. EPA made “no effect” determinations for all aquatic and terrestrial plants, aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, and aquatic vertebrates for which no direct effects or effects on prey, pollination, habitat, or dispersal are expected from the use of the 11 rodenticides.  

Despite data to the contrary, EPA has made no effect (NE) determinations for all species under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) because no consequences relevant to direct toxicity of these species or their prey, pollination, habitat, or dispersal are expected by EPA from the use of these rodenticides. These categorical NE determinations by EPA for all aquatic vertebrates, including those under the jurisdiction of NMFS, are not warranted. Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs), contrary to the agency's assertions, can be transported to the aquatic environment (freshwater and marine). Recent detections in raw and treated wastewater, sewage sludge, estuarine sediments, suspended particulate matter, and liver tissue of sampled fish demonstrate that the aquatic environment experiences a greater risk of anticoagulant rodenticide exposure than previously thought. One AR, brodifacoum, revealed an enduring persistence (> three years) in a marine environment after broadcast treatment in an island eradication project. Monitoring studies have also demonstrated that second-generation ARs bioaccumulate in fish liver under environmentally realistic conditions and exposure scenarios. Island eradication programs also provide for increased drift and runoff potential due to the broader treatment area and amplified application rates. Fish sampled after broadcast applications of AR bait pellets during monitored island eradication operations (Palmyra Atoll and Lehua Island, Hawaii) were found to have consumed treated pellets. The fish, as well as other animals that consumed the bait, were killed.  

Secondary poisoning in listed endangered species fish and aquatic reptiles is similarly possible from ingesting poisoned animals. Some invertebrates (e.g., insects, mollusks, and annelid worms) can consume poisoned baits and transfer the poison via food web to various susceptible vertebrates. Target and nontarget small mammals that have consumed poisoned baits will not always stay sedentary or concealed—many roam openly and often seek water. Those who become moribund or die in sewers, culverts, drainage ditches, or similar conduits can be swept into riparian zones or directly into water bodies (streams, rivers, lakes, tidal basins, estuaries), where they can be consumed by aquatic predators and scavengers. Encounter and ingestion of a poisoned and sickened rodent could prove fatal to aquatic vertebrate species. Mice have been reportedly consumed by listed species such as alligator snapping turtle, bull trout, Atlantic salmon, and steelhead trout. These four listed species should be considered “may be affected” and their potential jeopardy considered by the Services (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services-USFWS and NMFS) in the required formal consultation. Additionally, marine mammals may be at serious risk from existing and planned island eradication projects and should be considered in a revised BE. 

As discussed above, fish are exposed through primary routes in the consumption of bait pellets/grains that may be washed or transported into waters. They may also consume invertebrates or small mammals that have ingested poisoned baits and moved into their habitat. However, EPA lacks dietary toxicity data for fish and cannot confidently assess the extent of risk from this route of exposure in these aquatic vertebrates. EPA must seek additional toxicity data from registrants to better evaluate rodenticide toxicity from dietary exposures of fish. In addition to lacking dietary toxicity data for rodenticides, the agency also lacks reproduction and chronic (life cycle) toxicity data on aquatic vertebrates. 

In conclusion, the draft BE is unsatisfactory and must be revised before proceeding to formal ESA §7(a)(2) consultations with the Services (Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service). The flawed draft BE erroneously disregards potential aquatic exposure and fails to identify additional listed species (alligator snapping turtle, bull trout, Atlantic salmon, steelhead trout) that may be adversely affected. Aquatic animals, including fish are exposed, as previously discussed, through primary routes in the consumption of bait pellets/grains that may be washed or transported into waters from broadcast applications or improperly disposed bait stations. Secondary routes are also possible from consuming invertebrates or small mammals that have ingested poisoned bait and moved into their habitat. However, EPA lacks dietary toxicity data for fish and cannot confidently assess the extent of risk from this route of exposure.  

EPA must seek additional toxicity data from registrants to better evaluate rodenticide toxicity from dietary exposures of fish. In addition to lacking dietary toxicity data for rodenticides, the agency also lacks reproduction and chronic (life cycle) toxicity data on aquatic vertebrates. Since this draft BE is intended to be a comprehensive review and analysis of all currently registered uses of 11 rodenticides, the island eradication programs special use labels should also be considered in the rodenticide BE and not solely dependent on expected USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) ESA consultations.

>>Tell EPA to improve its protection of endangered species from rodenticides.

The target for this Action is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency via Regulations.gov.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Comment to EPA:

The Draft Biological Evaluation (BE) is inadequate and should not be used to support the registration of the 11 rodenticides under review. Pesticide use is a major cause of declining biodiversity, which is manifested in extinctions, endangered species, and species vulnerable to environmental disturbances—including climate change, habitat fragmentation, and toxic chemicals. EPA must reverse these trends.

The BE predicts the potential likelihood of future jeopardy for only 73 of the 136 species that “may be affected” and the potential likelihood of future adverse modification for only 4 of the 38 “likely to be adversely affected” critical habitats. EPA made “no effect” determinations for all aquatic and terrestrial plants, aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, and aquatic vertebrates for which it expects no direct effects or effects on prey, pollination, habitat, or dispersal from the use of the 11 rodenticides.

EPA made “no effect” (NE) determinations for species under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). These categorical NE determinations by EPA for all aquatic vertebrates are not warranted. Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) can be transported to freshwater and marine environments—as shown by recent detections in raw and treated wastewater, sewage sludge, estuarine sediments, suspended particulate matter, and liver tissue of fish. One AR, brodifacoum, persisted at least 3 years in a marine environment after broadcast treatment in an island eradication project (Palmyra Atoll and Lehua Island, Hawaii). Studies also show that second-generation ARs bioaccumulate in fish liver. Island eradication programs provide increased drift and runoff potential due to the broad treatment area and high application rates. Fish sampled after broadcast applications of AR bait pellets during monitored island eradication operations were found to have consumed treated pellets. The fish and other animals that consumed the bait were killed.

Secondary poisoning in listed endangered species aquatic species may occur by ingesting poisoned animals. Invertebrates such as insects, mollusks, and annelid worms can consume poisoned baits and transfer the poison via food web to susceptible vertebrates who may end up in water bodies where they can be consumed by aquatic predators and scavengers. Ingestion of a poisoned and sickened rodent could prove fatal to aquatic vertebrates. Mice are consumed by listed species such as alligator snapping turtle, bull trout, Atlantic salmon, and steelhead trout. These four listed species should be “may be affected” and their potential jeopardy considered by the Services (USFWS and NMFS) in the required formal consultation. Additionally, marine mammals may be at serious risk from existing and planned island eradication projects and should be considered in a revised BE.

In conclusion, the draft BE is flawed and must be revised before proceeding to formal consultations with the Services. The draft BE erroneously disregards potential aquatic exposure and fails to identify additional listed species (alligator snapping turtle, bull trout, Atlantic salmon, steelhead trout) as well as marine mammals that may be adversely affected. Aquatic animals are exposed through primary routes and secondary routes. EPA must seek additional data from registrants on dietary and chronic toxicity to aquatic vertebrates, which it currently lacks. Since this draft BE is intended to be a comprehensive review and analysis of all currently registered uses of 11 rodenticides, the island eradication programs special use labels should also be considered in the rodenticide BE and not wait on expected APHIS consultations.

Thank you for considering these comments.

01/19/2024 — USDA Must Foster Soil Fertility for ALL Organic Labeled Products

The public comment period has expired for this Action; however, Beyond Pesticides continues to work on this critical issue. Please reach out to our team at [email protected] for more information!

The failure of the National Organic Program (NOP) to consistently require soil-building practices for certification of organic farms presents a serious threat to organic integrity. As a result of this failure, some growers using hydroponic and other practices that do not build the soil are allowed to sell produce as organic. Such produce is not labeled as “hydroponic” or “container-grown.”    

>> Tell USDA to protect organic integrity and follow organic law by fostering soil fertility for ALL organic labeled products.

The Earth needs many more real organic farms that support soil health, help sequester carbon dioxide, and avoid the use of materials like soluble nitrogen fertilizers that contribute many times as much warming potential as carbon dioxide. By a decisive vote in 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Standards Board determined that hydroponic and aquaponic operations are inconsistent with OFPA and do not qualify for organic certification. 

USDA has an open comment period—closing Monday, January 22—regarding the information that is collected during the organic certification process. To comply with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), the National Organic Program (NOP) must collect information from all certified organic crop producers and all accredited certifying agents on how certified organic crop production operations “foster soil fertility” to verify compliance with OFPA 6513(b). 

At the present time, the NOP accredits certifying agents that certify soil-based crop producers who comply with the soil fertility requirements of OFPA and regulations. Simultaneously, the NOP accredits certifying agents that certify hydroponic, container, and other soilless crop production systems that do not comply with the soil fertility requirements of OFPA and NOP regulations. 

Soil-based organic production systems sequester carbon, fix nitrogen, build soil health, increase the water-holding capacity of soils, prevent soil erosion, foster the cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, conserve biodiversity, and provide numerous ecological services. Hydroponic, aquaponic, and other soilless container growing systems do not sequester carbon, fix nitrogen, increase the water-holding capacity of soils, recycle nutrients, prevent erosion, enhance biological diversity, or protect ecological balance, yet the USDA currently allows such operations to be certified “organic.”  

There are significant differences between soil-based and soilless crop production systems, but there is no data available to determine how much of the U.S. organic market is comprised of the products from these two different production systems, since the products of both systems are labeled “organic” and allowed to carry the “USDA Organic” logo. Likewise, USDA has no data to research and compare the environmental and health impacts of these systems, since the products of both systems are labeled the same. 

This comment period provides an opportunity to tell USDA that its failure to require data that can support an organic farm's compliance with the soil-building requirements of OFPA undermines organic consumers' trust in the integrity of the organic market. 

>>Tell USDA to protect organic integrity and follow organic law by fostering soil fertility for ALL organic labeled products.

The target for this Action is the U.S. Department of Agriculture via Regulations.gov.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Comment to EPA:

The Earth needs many more real organic farms to support soil health, help sequester carbon dioxide, and avoid the use of materials that contribute many times as much warming potential as carbon dioxide. USDA’s failure to require information to ensure consistent application of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) threatens the integrity of organic products upon which I depend.

At 6513(b)(1), OFPA states, “An organic plan shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation, and manuring.” OFPA 6513(g) states, “An organic plan shall not include any production or handling practices that are inconsistent with this chapter.”

NOP now accredits certifying agents that certify soil-based crop producers who comply with the soil fertility requirements of OFPA 6513(b)(1) and 7 CFR sections 205.2, Natural Resource Protection; 205.203 Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management; and 205.205 Crop Rotation. NOP also accredits certifying agents that certify hydroponic, container, and other soilless crop producers who do not comply with those same requirements.

Soil-based organic production systems sequester carbon, fix nitrogen, build soil health, increase the water-holding capacity of soils, prevent soil erosion, foster the cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, conserve biodiversity, and provide numerous ecological services, while hydroponic, aquaponic, and other soilless container growing systems do not, yet USDA allows such operations to be certified “organic.”

Despite significant differences between soil-based and soilless crop production systems, USDA has no data to determine or research how much of the U.S. organic market is comprised of the products from these two different production systems, since the products of both systems are labeled “organic” and allowed to carry the “USDA Organic” logo and compare the environmental and health impacts of these systems.

NOP must collect data on the type of production system used by certified organic crop producers to determine the number of soil-based vs soilless crop production operations and products, both foreign and domestic, that are being certified as “organic” under NOP. Accredited certifying agents must ask specific questions to assess all crop operations’ compliance with OFPA 6513(b)(1), since the law states that organic crop plans “shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility.”

In order to “assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard,” NOP must require that accredited certifying agents who certify hydroponic, aquaponic, and other soilless container systems provide data to NOP—and make it publicly available—on the number of such operations that they certify; the amount of acreage or square footage in soilless production; the types and quantities of crops produced using soilless production methods; the expected vs actual yields from soilless operations; the value of the crops produced using soilless production methods; the labels and brand names used on all such products; the countries of origin; and the markets where these products are sold.

The U.S. is the only country where soilless crop production systems are being certified as “organic,” so collection of the information cited above is needed to verify compliance with trade agreements in international organic markets.

USDA has issued no rules governing the soilless production of “organic” crops, so it is incumbent on USDA to collect accurate and detailed information on both soil-based and soilless crop production systems that are being certified as “organic,” in order to comply with OFPA Sections 6501(2), 6513(b), and 6513(g), and 7 CFR Part 205.2, 205.203, and 205.205.

Thank you.

01/13/2024 — Tell EPA It Must Require Submission of Efficacy Data for All Pesticides

UPDATE: Please take action by Monday, March 25, 2024, at 11:59 PM Eastern! (deadline extended from Monday, January 22, 2024)
Due to updates to the Regulations website, we are now able to offer a click-and-submit form to the Regulations docket! Please fill out the form to submit!


EPA has opened a comment period on a petition submitted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, American Bird Conservancy, and 60+ other groups. The petition is asking for rules to be promulgated that require efficacy data to be submitted for systemic insecticides by manufacturers registering these pesticides with EPA.   

>>EPA must require submission of efficacy data and make findings based on evidence that benefits outweigh risks before registering a pesticide.

Petitioners ask that manufacturers of neonicotinoids (neonics) or other systemic insecticides be required to prove that they work as intended and do not “subject species, ecosystems, and people to abject devastation with no benefit to users.” In fact, Section 3(c)(5) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires that EPA determine whether the pesticide will perform its intended function, when used “in accordance with widespread and commonly recognized practice,” without “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.” “Unreasonable adverse effects on the environment” means “any unreasonable risk to man or the environment, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.” 

The petitioners submit support for their contention that systemic insecticides are not effective and that they cause widespread harm to the environment, including birds, honey bees, aquatic ecosystems, and wildlife. The petition says, “The species impacted include all amphibians, and the majority of endangered fish, birds, and mammals, as well as pollinators and the plants they pollinate.”  

The petitioners also point to results showing lack of benefits—including a report by EPA's Biological and Economic Analysis Division (BEAD) showing that systemic insecticides generally do not provide benefits when used to protect soybeans. 

Thus, the petitioners make a case that registration should be denied to these systemic insecticides, since FIFRA Section 3(c)(6) requires EPA to deny registration if “the Administrator determines that the requirements of paragraph (5) for registration are not satisfied.” 

But how can EPA make any determination without efficacy data? The petitioners say that because the case they make shows that systemic insecticides do not meet the criteria for registration, EPA must request efficacy data for those pesticides. However, the same is true for all pesticides. EPA cannot meet the statutory prerequisite for registration without weighing data on both risks and benefits. Instead, as pointed out by the petitioners, EPA says, “rather than require efficacy data the Agency presumes that benefits exceed risks.” 

In 2021, a coalition of groups, including PEER and Beyond Pesticides, issued a scathing critique of the performance of EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs — embedded in the groups' advocacy for a series of 25 reforms. The petition tackles one specific aspect of EPA's process on one class of insecticides. The agency's track record, on so many pesticides, is to deal with one compound (under a narrow range of circumstances and/or narrow time frame and/or specific exposure levels) at a time. Beyond Pesticides has dubbed this the “whack-a-mole” struggle on pesticides. 

Each regulatory baby step at EPA represents small, incremental advances on a pesticide problem that is vast in scope—an approach that is wholly inadequate to the devastation that toxic pesticides are causing, and it continues the “collision course” we are on re: human health and well-being, biodiversity collapse, and the climate crisis. A precautionary approach—captured in organic, regenerative agriculture and land management protocols—is far more suited to the task of genuinely protecting public health and the environment than EPA's current, industry-friendly, piecemeal approach. 

The availability of alternative materials and practices that prevent (or vastly reduce) toxic hazards, as are used in organic management, makes the dependence on synthetic chemical pesticides even more reprehensible. A genuinely protective approach to pests (floral or faunal) in agriculture and land management starts with transitioning from chemical dependency to organic land management in food production, and parks, playing fields, and all recreational and public spaces. In the meantime, efforts to push EPA will continue to move the needle, however slowly and haltingly. EPA should take seriously its mission: to protect human health and the environment. 

EPA must require submission of efficacy data and make findings based on evidence that benefits outweigh risks before registering a pesticide.

The targets for this Action are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Congress.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Comment to EPA 

I am writing to support the petition  asking that manufacturers of neonicotinoids (neonics) or other systemic insecticides be required to prove that they work as intended and do not “subject species, ecosystems, and people to abject devastation with no benefit to users.” In fact, Section 3(c)(5) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires that EPA determine whether the pesticide will perform its intended function, when used “in accordance with widespread and commonly recognized practice,” without “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.” “Unreasonable adverse effects on the environment” means “any unreasonable risk to man or the environment, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.” 

It has been shown that systemic insecticides are not effective in soybean production and that they cause widespread harm to the environment, including birds, honey bees, aquatic ecosystems, and wildlife. The petition says, “The species impacted include all amphibians, and the majority of endangered fish, birds, and mammals, as well as pollinators and the plants they pollinate.” The petitioners point to results showing lack of benefits—including a report by EPA’s Biological and Economic Analysis Division (BEAD) showing that systemic insecticides generally do not provide benefits when used to protect soybeans. 

Thus, the petitioners make a case that registration should be denied to these systemic insecticides, since FIFRA Section 3(c)(6) requires EPA to deny registration if “the Administrator determines that the requirements of paragraph (5) for registration are not satisfied.” 

But how can EPA make any determination without efficacy data? The petitioners say that because the case they make shows that systemic insecticides do not meet the criteria for registration, EPA must request efficacy data for those pesticides. The same is true for all pesticides. EPA cannot meet the statutory prerequisite for registration without weighing data on both risks and benefits. Instead, as pointed out by the petitioners, EPA says, “rather than require efficacy data the Agency presumes that benefits exceed risks.” 

Each regulatory baby step at EPA represents small, incremental advances on a pesticide problem that is now vast in scope—an approach that is wholly inadequate to the devastation that toxic pesticides are causing, and it continues the “collision course” we are on re: human health and well-being, biodiversity collapse, and the climate crisis. A precautionary approach — captured in alternatives like organic, regenerative agriculture and land management protocols — is far more suited to the task of genuinely protecting public health and the environment than EPA’s current, industry friendly, piecemeal approach. This approach is viable under the “unreasonable adverse effects” standard of review under FIFRA. 

The availability of alternative materials and practices that prevent (or vastly reduce) toxic hazards, as are used in organic management, makes the dependence on synthetic chemical pesticides even more reprehensible and “unreasonable.” A genuinely protective approach to pests (floral or faunal) in agriculture and land management starts with transitioning from chemical dependency to organic land management in food production, and parks, playing fields, and all recreational and public spaces. In the meantime, the petitions request for efficacy review will push the pesticide registration review process to move the needle, however slowly and haltingly. EPA should take seriously its mission: to protect human health and the environment. 

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

01/06/2024 — Tell EPA To Ban Antibiotics in Crop Production and Synthetic Turf

Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world, according to the World Health Organization. In the May 1, 2022, issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Samira Choudhury, PhD, et al. write, “Often referred to as the silent pandemic, antimicrobial resistance claims the lives of over 700,000 people annually.” The authors continue, “A study suggests that if no actions are taken, antimicrobial resistance will cause 10 million deaths per year by 2050 and an economic impact of over 100 trillion United States dollars.” 

>>Tell EPA and Congress that antibiotic pesticides must be eliminated.

A federal district court decision last month (December 13) found illegal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision to register the antibiotic streptomycin for use in Florida citrus to control Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as “citrus greening,” a plant disease spread by the Asian citrus psyllid.  

The court found, “[EPA] admits it did not comply with the [Endangered Species Act].” The court also found that EPA failed to show that streptomycin would achieve benefits as a tool for preventing the target disease. The court found, “[W]e have now concluded that the EPA did not fully comply with FIFRA because it (1) failed to include additional data in its pollinator risk assessment or explain why such data was not necessary and (2) suggested that streptomycin could be used to prevent disease without providing evidentiary support for such a claim. 

However, the court was not convinced that EPA fails to protect against the spread of antibiotic resistance and assumed that the restrictions that EPA required for personal protective equipment (PPE) and drift control would adequately mitigate risks, despite a history of noncompliance and uncontrollable movement of pesticides off the target site.  

When antimicrobial or antibiotic pesticides are sprayed on a crop, they induce antibiotic resistance in bacteria that are present by killing susceptible bacteria—which may or may not be pathogenic—allowing resistant bacteria to proliferate. Those resistant bacteria move off the site on produce, workers' clothing, and the wind. Prevention of chemical drift is therefore inadequate to protect against the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The now well-known phenomenon of horizontal gene transfer (movement of genes in bacteria from one bacterial species to another) means that antibiotic resistance genes in those (possibly harmless) bacteria can move to bacteria that cause disease in plants or humans. 

Streptomycin has been banned for agricultural use on crops in many countries, but in the U.S., its use and the use of oxytetracycline in fruit and vegetable production have been permitted. Under the Trump administration, EPA permitted an emergency use authorization in 2017 to expand use of these antibiotics to Florida citrus crops to control citrus greening. That emergency authorization was to have run out in 2019, but, in January of that year, EPA moved to make the authorization permanent, despite, according to the New York Times, “strenuous objections from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warn that the heavy use of antimicrobial drugs in agriculture could spur germs to mutate so they become resistant to the drugs, threatening the lives of millions of people.” That decision greenlighted the use of more than 650,000 pounds of streptomycin on citrus crops in Florida and California alone, and followed an approval two years prior of oxytetracycline for use on the same citrus crops. Citrus greening has been successfully managed organically in Florida, with a combination of biological controls and cultural practices. 

In addition to use on crops, antimicrobials used to manage synthetic turf for bacteria, mold, and fungus raise serious health issues and represent a threat that does not exist in organic land management. A builder of sports facilities, American Athletic, states, “Beyond surface cleaning, the artificial turf should be sanitized weekly or monthly to protect the players' and coaches' health. This disinfection requires special solvents, cleansers, and anti-microbial products to remove invisible particles and bacterial growth. You should strive to sanitize the field after every game and throughout the school day if it's used for physical education classes.”

Finally, two facts lead to the conclusion that focusing on materials sold as antibiotics or antimicrobials is too shortsighted. First, science shows that use of any antibiotics anywhere can increase antibiotic resistance everywhere. Second, many pesticides not intended to kill microbes—such as the herbicides glyphosate2,4-D, and dicamba—also induce antibiotic resistance in deadly human pathogens. These two facts lead to the conclusion that we must stop broadcasting pesticides in the environment and applying them to food. The crisis in antibiotic resistance, which creates a threat of another pandemic, is ignored in the registration of pesticides. The antibiotic impacts of pesticides cited above were discovered only after the pesticides had been disseminated in the environment for decades.  

>>Tell EPA and Congress that antibiotic pesticides must be eliminated.

The targets for this Action are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Congress.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Letter to EPA:

Antimicrobial resistance is rising to dangerously high levels. In the May 1, 2022, issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Samira Choudhury, PhD, et al. write, “Often referred to as the silent pandemic, antimicrobial resistance claims the lives of over 700,000 people annually.” They continue, “A study suggests that if no actions are taken, antimicrobial resistance will cause 10 million deaths per year by 2050 and an economic impact of over 100 trillion United States dollars.”

A federal district court decision blocked EPA’s decision to register the antibiotic streptomycin for use in Florida citrus to control Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as “citrus greening,” a plant disease spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, finding, “[EPA] admits it did not comply with the ESA.” The court also found that EPA failed to show that streptomycin would achieve benefits in preventing the disease. However, the court was not convinced that EPA fails to protect against the spread of antibiotic resistance and assumed that the restrictions that EPA required for personal protective equipment (PPE) and drift control would adequately mitigate risks.

When antimicrobial pesticides are sprayed on a crop, they induce resistance in bacteria that are present by killing susceptible bacteria—which may or may not be pathogenic—allowing resistant bacteria to proliferate. The resistant bacteria move off the site on crops, workers, and the wind. Prevention of chemical drift is thus inadequate to protect against the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The fact of horizontal gene transfer means that antibiotic resistance genes in those (possibly harmless) bacteria can move to pathogens.

In 2017, EPA permitted use of these antibiotics in Florida citrus crops. In January 2019, EPA moved to make the authorization permanent despite, according to the New York Times, “strenuous objections from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warn that the heavy use of antimicrobial drugs in agriculture could spur germs to mutate so they become resistant to the drugs, threatening the lives of millions of people.” Two years prior, oxytetracycline was approved for use on the same citrus crops.

In addition to crops, antimicrobials are used to manage synthetic turf. A builder of sports facilities, American Athletic, states, “Beyond surface cleaning, the artificial turf should be sanitized weekly or monthly to protect the players’ and coaches’ health. This disinfection requires special solvents, cleansers, and antimicrobial products to remove invisible particles and bacterial growth. You should strive to sanitize the field after every game and throughout the school day if it’s used for physical education classes.”

Finally, focusing on materials sold as antibiotics or antimicrobials is too shortsighted. First, science shows that use of any antibiotics anywhere can increase antibiotic resistance everywhere. Second, many pesticides not intended to kill microbes—such as the herbicides glyphosate, 2,4-D, and dicamba—also induce antibiotic resistance in deadly human pathogens. Thus, we must stop broadcasting pesticides in the environment. The crisis in antibiotic resistance, which creates a threat of another pandemic, is ignored in the registration of pesticides. The antibiotic impacts of pesticides cited above were discovered only after the pesticides had been disseminated in the environment for decades.

EPA must not register pesticides unless they have been demonstrated not to contribute to antibiotic resistance and must cancel the registration of those that do.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators:

Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels. In the May 1, 2022, issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Samira Choudhury, PhD, et al. write, “Often referred to as the silent pandemic, antimicrobial resistance claims the lives of over 700,000 people annually.” They continue, “A study suggests that if no actions are taken, antimicrobial resistance will cause 10 million deaths per year by 2050 and an economic impact of over 100 trillion United States dollars.”

A federal district court decision blocked EPA’s decision to register the antibiotic streptomycin for use in Florida citrus to control Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as “citrus greening,” a plant disease spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, citing failure to comply with the ESA and to show benefits. However, the court was not convinced that EPA fails to protect against the spread of antibiotic resistance and assumed that the restrictions that EPA required for personal protective equipment (PPE) and drift control would adequately mitigate risks.

When antimicrobial pesticides are sprayed on a crop, they induce antimicrobial resistance in bacteria that are present by killing susceptible bacteria—which may or may not be pathogenic—allowing resistant bacteria to proliferate. The resistant bacteria move off the site on crops, workers, and the wind. Prevention of chemical drift is thus inadequate to protect against the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The fact of horizontal gene transfer means that antibiotic resistance genes in those (possibly harmless) bacteria can move to pathogens.

In 2017, EPA permitted expanding use of these antibiotics in Florida citrus crops. In January 2019, EPA moved to make the authorization permanent despite, according to the New York Times, “strenuous objections from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warn that the heavy use of antimicrobial drugs in agriculture could spur germs to mutate so they become resistant to the drugs, threatening the lives of millions of people.” Two years prior, oxytetracycline was approved for use on the same citrus crops.

In addition to crops, antimicrobials are used to manage synthetic turf. A builder of sports facilities, American Athletic, states, “Beyond surface cleaning, the artificial turf should be sanitized weekly or monthly to protect the players’ and coaches’ health. This disinfection requires special solvents, cleansers, and anti-microbial products to remove invisible particles and bacterial growth. You should strive to sanitize the field after every game and throughout the school day if it’s used for physical education classes.”

Finally, focusing on materials sold as antibiotics or antimicrobials is too shortsighted. First, science shows that use of any antibiotics anywhere can increase antibiotic resistance everywhere. Second, many pesticides not intended to kill microbes—such as the herbicides glyphosate, 2,4-D, and dicamba—also induce antibiotic resistance in deadly human pathogens. Thus, we must stop broadcasting pesticides in the environment. The crisis in antibiotic resistance, which creates a threat of another pandemic, is ignored in the registration of pesticides. The antibiotic impacts of pesticides cited above were discovered only after the pesticides had been disseminated in the environment for decades.

Please ensure EPA does not register pesticides unless they have been demonstrated not to contribute to antibiotic resistance and cancels the registration of those that do.

Thank you.