Groups Tell EPA’s Pesticide Program It’s a Failure, Calls for Immediate Reforms – Beyond Pesticides


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(Beyond Pesticides, October 26, 2021) The Office of Pesticides Programs within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has become so captured by industry that it has lost sight of its health and environmental mission, according to a scathing critique issued today by 37 environmental, public health, and sustainable agriculture groups, including beekeeper councils. Led by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and Beyond Pesticides, the groups are urging the Biden administration to adopt reforms within OPP to ensure pesticide approval and use decisions are science-based.
EPA’s OPP has registered more than 18,000 separate pesticide products — far more than any other country — and more than 2 billion pounds of pesticides are sold annually in the U.S. They are used annually over roughly 250 million acres of farmland, across millions of acres of urban and suburban lands, and inside millions of homes, schools, and other buildings. 
The coalition letter points to employee reports that managers within  OPP –

Push through “Yes packages” of pesticide approvals greased by industry lobbying;
Suppress toxicological and other concerns raised by professional staff; and
Engage in outrageous waivers of vital toxicity study requirements, instead relying on “conditional” registrations to allow pesticide uses, despite missing key data. Seeing these waivers as accomplishments, OPP managers recently threw a party to “celebrate 1,000 studies waived,” with a notation in the staff invitation that “cake will be served.”

“EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs has bent so far over backwards to accommodate industry desires that it is now beyond chiropractic help – major surgery is required,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Peter Jenkins, noting that while problems within OPP worsened under Trump, they preexisted his term but continue today. “Inside OPP, marginalization of science remains cause for celebration and the result has been repeated ecological and public health disasters.”
The letter recounts a litany of improper pesticide approvals decisions, some of which were blocked in court, while still others are being reversed under Biden. But, the groups say these cases are symptomatic of a larger institutional illness that calls for thoroughgoing reforms.
The cumulative effects of years and decades of this regulatory abuse are untold human deaths, disabilities, and illnesses. Industry has been forced to pay out billions of dollars for damages claims over OPP-approved products. The groups also point to the decline of pollinators – the key to American food security – due to the indiscriminate application of highly potent pesticides. The health of non-target wildlife, as well as our soil and waters, is under chemical siege. Even pets are at risk from irresponsibly approved flea and tick control products.
“We call on the Biden Administration to be a hero for health – the fastest thing it can do is immediately revoke the worst pesticides,” said Beyond Pesticides Executive Director  Jay Feldman, pointing to the 25 specific steps the coalition identifies that OPP can take to avoid or mitigate its mistakes going forward, all within its current authority. “Horror stories have piled up for too long and Americans no longer are safe from the very agency charged with protecting them.”
Groups signing on include: 350 Maine, Beyond Pesticides, Center for an Ecology-Based Economy Center for Food Safety, Climate Action Now – Western Massachusetts, Climate Xchange Community Action Works, Environment Maine, Farmworker Association of Florida Friends of the Earth, Green State Solutions, Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action Hawai’i SEED, International Center for Technology Assessment, Land Stewardship Project Laudato Si’ Movement – Boston Chapter, LEAD for Pollinators, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Maine Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network, Maryland Pesticide Education Network, Montana Organic Association, Mothers Out Front, Northeast Organic Farming Association – Mass., Ocean River Institute, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Pasa Sustainable Agriculture Pesticide Action Network, Pesticide Research Institute, Pollinate Minnesota Pollinator Stewardship Council, Powder River Basin Resource Council Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Regeneration Massachusetts Sierra Club, Sustainable Tompkins, Toxic Free North Carolina.
Read organizations’ letter to EPA.
October 25, 2021
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, President
Michael S. Regan, EPA Administrator
Edward Messina, EPA Office of Pesticide Programs Director
Michal Ilana Freedhoff, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention 
Jake Li, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Pesticide Programs
Re:  Major Reform is Needed in EPA OPP’s Pesticide Regulation
Dear President Biden, Administrator Regan, Director Messina, Assistant Administrator Freedhoff, and Deputy Assistant Administrator Li,
We, the undersigned [[34 ]] environmental, health, farmworker, beekeeper, agricultural and other organizations, on behalf of our millions of members nationwide, write to express that we have serious concerns about the failure of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect people and the environment from the dangers of pesticides. In this letter we list a series of actions or inactions that put people and the environment in harm’s way and identify overarching need for reform in a short timeframe.  We know that toxic pesticide use in the United States is widespread. EPA has registered more than 18,000 separate pesticide products — far more than any other nation — and more than 2 billion pounds of pesticides are sold annually in the U.S. They are used annually over roughly 250 million acres of farmland, across millions of acres of urban and suburban lands, and inside millions of homes, schools, and other buildings. In recent decades the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) has made a series of crucial regulatory mistakes that have caused human deaths, disabilities, and illnesses; caused disproportionate harm to people of color; destroyed beekeeper livelihoods; largely eliminated the iconic monarch butterfly; decimated bird and invertebrate populations; killed or sickened people’s beloved dogs and cats; contributed to the climate crisis; and otherwise harmed the welfare of this country.
A June 30, 2021, article in The Intercept, exposes OPPs malfeasance.[1] Entitled “The Department of Yes – How Pesticide Companies Corrupted the EPA and Poisoned America,” it confirms our own experiences in confronting an OPP that has seemed determined to undermine EPA’s fundamental mandate to protect human health and the environment. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which establishes a system for registering pesticides, recognizes that these toxic chemicals are economic poisons—inherently dangerous materials whose dispersal into the environment is allowed for largely economic reasons—and whose use can therefore be permitted only when the benefits of use outweigh the risks (adverse effects). The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), which establishes the standard for allowable pesticide residues in food, creates a risk assessment-based standard that has been interpreted to permit harm to human health despite the availability and economic viability of less toxic approaches to food productions.
EPA and the administration have the ability under existing law to steer the nation away from toxic chemical dependency with a clear strategy to address the existential crises associated with public health decline, biodiversity decline, and the climate crisis.
OPP has undermined the purposes of FIFRA and the FFDCA by, for example:
– pushing through “Yes packages” of pesticide registration proposals that are approved because of industry lobbying and political pressure,
– suppressing the scientific opinions of many of its own professionals unless they are consistent with the registrants’ goals,
– excessive, outrageous waivers of vital toxicity study requirements and the use of “conditional” registrations by which OPP allows pesticide uses to proceed despite missing key data,
– engaging in what likely is one of the worst “revolving door” situations in the Federal government in which regulatory officials retire from OPP and then work for or consult with the regulated companies,
– willful noncompliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, which requires proposed registrations to include consultations with the wildlife agencies (Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service) to take into account and mitigate potential impacts on our nation’s threatened and endangered species, and
– failure to review and regulate endocrine-disrupting pesticides, as required by the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, which amended FIFRA and FFDCA.
An urgent need exists for OPP to re-think its application of current standards in law to meet the crises of the day. To do this, the agency must embrace a series of underlying principles to guide its decisions into the future.

Utilize unreasonable risk. We urge OPP to use its powers under the “unreasonable adverse effects” standard of FIFRA to be more holistic and precautionary. A risk or hazard analysis requires a deeper analysis of costs, including externalities, secondary pest populations, and other factors. When evaluating pesticide registrations, EPA should determine the full range of practices available to achieve   submitters’ goals of pesticide registration or reregistration, including chemical and nonchemical strategies. In conducting its risk/hazard assessment to meet its statutory duty, the agency must evaluate the complete pesticide formulation to which the public/environment is exposed, taking into account the active and inert ingredients, contaminants, and metabolites. Mixtures resulting in additive and synergistic effects must be evaluated and, where the full range of data are not available on adverse effects, reasonableness of risk should not be assumed.

Conduct proper alternatives analyses. A broader application of the FIFRA “unreasonable adverse effects” standard includes an assessment by the agency of the range of alternatives – non- or least-toxic practices and materials – that could be used to achieve the ultimate agricultural, landscape or building management goal. This information provides the basis for determining reasonableness of risk, and in so doing establishes findings on whether food can be grown, landscapes can be managed, and quality of life can be achieved without the use of toxic chemicals. OPP’s findings regarding alternatives will be important to: a) incentivizing the market to move to non- and least-toxic alternative practices and products that can eliminate petroleum-based pesticides that contribute to the climate crisis, b) protecting those who are disproportionately at risk, and c) responding to the dramatic decline of biodiversity. Climate change will likely lead to vector-borne illnesses spreading into new areas, and scientists warn that insecticide exposure under warming temperatures is not well understood. 

Reject corrupt data. OPP should not rely on corrupt data, as documented by theMidwest Center for Investigative Reporting piece last December. OPP must cancel registrations based on false data and establish a moratorium for future pesticide registrations from manufacturers found to have submitted fraudulent data—until the agency can assure the public that the science supporting pesticide registrations is not corrupt. 

Apply science of endocrine disruption. OPP must end its failure to meet the agency’s statutory responsibility to fully protect people and wildlife from the dire consequences of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that affect the full functioning of organisms. More than 50 pesticide active ingredients (more when considering contaminants, inerts, etc.) have been identified as EDCs that mimic the action of a naturally produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone, thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body; block hormone receptors in cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or affect the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility and other reproductive disorders, childhood and adult cancers, and other metabolic disorders. OPP has a statutory responsibility to look at the explosion of these diseases, including multigenerational epigenetic effects, analyze the role pesticides play in these diseases, and take protective regulatory action.

Engage in holistic reform. OPP should aggressively implement the Presidential Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies (January 20, 2021) regarding Modernizing Regulatory Review. This memorandum directs the heads of all executive departments and agencies to produce recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review, with a goal of promoting public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. It sets the stage for the urgent adoption of agency policy across government to seriously confront the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, and disproportionate harm to people of color communities (environmental racism) and those with comorbidities/underlying health conditions. If OPP’s pesticide registration decisions are to be consistent with this memorandum, it must facilitate the widespread adoption of organic farming and land care practices, which reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon in the soil, and protect the lives of essential workers, farmworkers, and fenceline communities.

. . . more content in original letter. See entire letter to EPA.
[1] Author: Sharon Lerner. Online at:

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