Enviros Threaten Enlist Lawsuit vs. EPA

Environmental Groups Allege EPA Failed to Conduct Endangered Species Act Evaluation of Enlist Herbicides

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Environmental Editor
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Two environmental groups have threatened to sue the EPA on its January approval of registrations for Enlist Duo and Enlist One. (DTN file photo)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- The EPA violated the Endangered Species Act in completing registrations in January for Enlist One and Enlist Duo, the Center for Food Safety and the Pesticide Action Network North America allege in an intent-to-sue letter sent to the agency on Tuesday.

The two herbicides registered to Corteva Agriscience are sprayed on genetically modified corn, soybeans and cotton across the country.

According to a notice of intent to sue, the groups allege EPA violated the Endangered Species Act by "failing to consult" with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prior to approving the herbicides.

In addition, the letter said EPA "failed to insure" against harm to threatened and endangered species and designated critical habitats in the 34 states where the herbicides are used.

Enlist One and Enlist Duo contain 2,4-D, and the groups claim EPA knew the use of the herbicides could harm endangered and threatened species by increasing concentrations of 2,4-D and glyphosate in the environment. The letter alleges the action destroyed important spawning and breeding habitats, depleted food sources and reduced local populations.

In January, EPA granted new registrations and labels for Corteva's Enlist One and Enlist Duo herbicides. The products are registered for seven years but are unavailable to growers in a limited number of counties with federally listed endangered species.

Corteva said in a statement to DTN it was "disappointed" in the groups' intent to sue.

"The Enlist weed control system helps farmers control tough weeds while providing key benefits including near-zero volatility, reduced potential for off-target movement and physical drift, and improved handling characteristics when applied according to label instructions," the company said.

"Corteva believes the notice letter is without merit and makes a number of false and misleading claims, including that Enlist Duo herbicide registration was previously revoked."

As part of the updated ESA process, Corteva said the added targeted risk-mitigation measures to the Enlist herbicide labels will "help ensure that use of Enlist herbicides in accordance with the label will continue to help protect endangered species and their habitats while also allowing growers to continue to capture the benefits of the Enlist weed control system."

The new Enlist registrations were among the first herbicides on the market with a full EPA analysis of their effect on endangered species and critical habitats.

The agency added several new measures to the label to protect federally listed species and habitats, as well as limit off-target movement and protect pollinators.

"EPA violated the ESA by failing to consult with the expert wildlife agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, before approving and amending the registrations of Enlist One and Enlist Duo," the groups said in the letter.

"In addition to EPA's ongoing violations of the ESA's consultation requirements, EPA has failed to insure, through consultation with the expert wildlife agencies, against jeopardy to threatened and endangered species and adverse modification of designated critical habitats. Moreover, EPA has, and continues to violate, its duty to prevent irreversible commitments of resources during formal consultation, foreclosing the implementation of reasonable alternatives for current and future growing seasons."

The notice of intent to sue is the latest in a series of legal pursuits the groups have taken against EPA on Enlist Duo. The groups sued the agency first in 2014.

On Wednesday, the same groups sued EPA in connection with a 2017 pesticides petition filed with the agency.

The 2017 petition had asked the EPA to consider all ingredients in pesticide formulations when evaluating potential risks to the environment.

According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, the groups allege EPA violated the administrative procedure act by not providing a "timely response" to the petition. The groups asked the court to require the agency to respond to the 2017 petition within 90 days.

"Despite these risks, EPA's assessment of pesticides in the pesticide registration process focuses almost entirely on the individual pesticide active ingredients and not the inert ingredients, nor the synergistic effects of interactions amongst different ingredients," the groups said in the lawsuit.

Read the intent-to-sue letter here: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/…

Read the lawsuit here: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/…

Read more on DTN:

"New Enlist Registrations," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"What Ag Can Learn From Enlist," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Enlist Herbicide Heartburn," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

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

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
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