LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- EPA has 29 days to decide whether to grant or deny a petition calling for the regulation of pesticide-treated seeds, after a federal court on Wednesday approved a consent decree between the agency and the Center for Food Safety and the Pesticide Action Network North America.
Pesticide-treated seed is used widely across the country, meaning a decision could affect nearly every acre of corn and soybeans, as well as other crops.
The consent decree comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by the groups last December.
For years treated seeds were exempted from regulation as a pesticide as part of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA. The environmental groups sued because the agency has not responded to a 2017 petition to regulate treated seed.
By Sept. 30, the EPA will decide whether to draft regulations on treated seeds or to deny the environmental groups' demands, according to the decree approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California in San Francisco.
"After EPA has granted, denied, or granted in part and denied in part the 2017 petition requests, and after the parties have resolved the issue of costs of litigation (including reasonable attorneys' fees), defendants may move to have this consent decree terminated," according to the decree.
The environmental groups would then have 14 days to respond to such a motion.
Concerns about pesticide-treated seed took center stage in an environmental disaster at a now-shuttered closed-loop ethanol plant in Mead, Nebraska.
In their lawsuit, the environmental groups talked about the ill effects of the accumulation of tens of thousands of tons of treated seed at the plant. The plant used pesticide-treated seed to produce ethanol and stored distillers grains on the property. That led to the contamination of ground and surface water and continues to be in environmental remediation with more than 84,000 tons of toxic distilled grain piled on the site.
DTN reported last year that treated seeds are now planted on an estimated 180 million acres.
In late 2018 and early 2019, EPA asked for public comments on the environmental groups' petition and received 16,343 total comments. EPA never responded to the 2017 petition.
Industry groups including the American Seed Trade Association, Crop Life America and other grower groups said in comments to EPA in 2018 that pesticides applied as seed treatments are "subject to rigorous, scientifically robust review by EPA" and that requirements for treated seeds would "unnecessarily duplicate" existing EPA regulation.
The environmental groups said in the lawsuit that EPA never did draft a rule after the agency's decision to exempt pesticide-treated seeds from FIFRA.
Read more on DTN:
"Treated Seed Troubles," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
"EPA Sued Over Seed Treatments," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
"Treated Seeds a Focus of Consent Decree," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley
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