Measure Bans Some Chemicals

Legislation Introduced by Sen. Udall, Rep. Neguse Targets Neonics, Other Chemicals

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Legislation introduced in the House and Senate would make broad changes to EPA's authority in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- New legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate would ban organophosphate, neonicotinoid and paraquat pesticides, create a petition process to EPA for individual citizens, close loopholes on emergency exemptions and make other reforms to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., said during a news conference on Tuesday that FIFRA is not protecting public health but rather the financial interests of the chemical industry.

Udall said pesticide safety is a bipartisan issue, although he acknowledged it may be difficult to pass the legislation and have it signed by the current administration.

"I have talked to colleagues and have had numerous discussions with senators about pesticides," he said. "Everybody feels something needs to be done here. What we need first is a strong bill"

The Protect America's Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2020 would enable local communities to enact policies without being vetoed or preempted by state law and would suspend the use of pesticides deemed unsafe by the European Union and Canada, pending EPA review.

The bill would require the EPA administrator to make a finding within 90 days on petitions filed to designate chemicals as "dangerous."

"If the administrator fails to make a finding on a petition by the date required, the active ingredient or pesticide product that is the subject of the petition shall be deemed to be a dangerous pesticide," the bill said.

The legislation would require the administrator to consider all scientific studies and would be required to "immediately suspend" the registration of an active ingredient or pesticide product if a "valid reregistration eligibility decision or registration review determination has not been made."

Usually when the EPA suspends a product or withdraws a registration, it allows the use of existing stocks remaining in the market. The legislation would disallow that practice.

"If the administrator fails to suspend the registration of an active ingredient or pesticide product that may warrant designation as a dangerous pesticide as required by this subsection by not later than 60 days after any deadline described in this subsection, the registration of the active ingredient or pesticide product shall be immediately and permanently canceled," the bill stated.

Currently included in the EPA analysis of proposed rules, the agency is required to perform a cost-benefits analysis. The proposed legislation would forbid the practice on "dangerous" chemicals.

In addition, the EPA administrator would have the authority to cancel conditional registrations if a registrant hasn't complied with the terms within two years. In addition, the bill would require the cancelation of each outstanding conditional registration from a given registrant.

The administrator would be unable to grant emergency exemptions for the same active ingredient or pesticide product in the same location for more than two years, in any 10-year period. Registrants also would be required to provide a list of inert ingredients on pesticide products.

EPA regulation allows the limited use of a pesticide in an emergency situation in defined geographic areas for a finite period of time.

However, Udall said many pesticides approved for emergency use are used for years without review.

"It is a complete misuse of the emergency exemption," he said. "Here we have the capture of the regulatory emergency. They just do what the industry wants."

Udall said about one-third of annual U.S. pesticide use, or more than 300 million pounds from 85 different pesticides, comes from pesticides banned in the European Union. In addition, he said there is "no clear evidence" they increase yields.

"It's (FIFRA) protecting the pesticide industry," Udall said. "EPA is coming down on the side of industry profits. The U.S. allows dozens of pesticides banned in other countries."

According to a fact sheet provided to DTN by Udall's staff, once pesticides are approved, they often remain on the market for decades, "even when scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows a pesticide is causing harm to people or the environment."

"Farm workers bear the brunt of harmful chemicals," Udall said. "The consequences of failing to update this law could be devastating. It's time to put our children ahead of the chemical industry. This is a public health issue. It is an environmental justice issue."

Chris Novak, president and CEO at CropLife America, said in a statement to DTN: "Pesticides play an important role in protecting public health, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act has guided the regulation of pesticides since 1947.

"The law has been amended many times but continues to balance the risks and benefits of every pesticide on the market today. Legislation seeking to ban individual chemistries undermines the work of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's career scientists and tears at the fabric of a law that has served our nation well for more than 70 years. We do know, however, that we should continue to seek improvements in how pesticides are regulated, so we look forward to working with members of Congress as these issues are debated."

Read the legislation here: https://www.dtn.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley