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Policy and Regulation » North America

Title: EPA Called to Start Monitoring Synergistic Effects of Pesticides
Publication date: July 03, 2017
Posting date: July 03, 2017

THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues

EPA Called to Start Monitoring Synergistic Effects of Pesticides

Weeds resistant to the most commonly used herbicide, glyphosate, have now been found on 100 million acres of U.S. farmland in 36 states. This resistance, also a consequence of the widespread plating of genetically modified (GM) herbicide-resistant crops, has directly led to increased herbicide use because farmers are opting to spray multiple herbicides in order to kill resistant weeds. Stacked GM crops that resist multiple herbicides have also been approved for cultivation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review to assess the agency's management and oversight of resistance issues related to herbicide-resistant GM crops. It found that the EPA has not been doing enough to address the problem of herbicide resistance and made several recommendations.

Of particular importance is the recommendation for the agency to first assess the enhanced toxicity caused by interactions in pesticide mixtures before approving pesticides. Pesticides are often mixed with other pesticides and chemicals before application or after, and the individual ingredients in these mixtures can interact in such a way as to enhance their toxic effects. Synergy can turn what would normally be considered a safe level of exposure to people, wildlife and the environment into one that causes considerable harm.

The OIG's report cited evidence from the Center for Biological Diversity’s analysis, Toxic Concoctions: How the EPA Ignores the Dangers of Pesticide Cocktails(http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/pesticides_reduction/pdfs/Toxic_concoctions.pdf) that the EPA had failed to collect the data needed to assess synergy between pesticides. The Center had conducted an intensive search of patent applications that were applicable to all pesticide products containing two or more active ingredients approved by the EPA in the past six years from four major agrochemical companies (Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta). It found that 69% of these products (96 out of 140) had at least one patent application that claimed or demonstrated synergy between the active ingredients in the product; and that 72% of the patent applications that claimed or demonstrated synergy involved some of the most highly used pesticides in the United States, including glyphosate, atrazine, 2,4-D, dicamba, among others, indicating that potential impacts could be widespread.  This also showed that pesticide companies had been collecting information about the synergistic effects of their products, which they had not been sharing with the EPA.

Collecting information regarding synergism had been required by regulation from 1984 until 2007 when the EPA deleted the provision, calling it unnecessary. As a result, for the past 10 years the risks of synergistic combinations have been widely overlooked by the EPA in its approval of pesticides for food, lawns and everyday products.

The Inspector General noted that the pesticide office had agreed to consider whether synergistic effects data should be required for pesticide registration by June 2019.

 

With best wishes,

Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twn@twnetwork.org
Websites: http://www.twn.my/and http://www.biosafety-info.net/
To subscribe to other TWN information services: www.twnnews.net

____________________________________________________________________________

Item 1

EPA CAN STRENGTHEN ITS OVERSIGHT OF HERBICIDE RESISTANCE WITH BETTER MANAGEMENT CONTROLS

Report No. 17-P-0278, 21 June 2017
Office of Inspector General
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-06/documents/_epaoig_20170621-17-p-0278.pdf

At a Glance

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the agency has taken few steps to address herbicide resistance. The EPA believes that a delay in herbicide resistance is in the “public good.” Delaying resistance minimizes the amount and type of herbicides applied to combat weeds, reduces human and environmental exposure, and increases grower productivity. However, the EPA has several management and oversight challenges related to the agency effectively addressing herbicide resistance.

We found that the EPA uses the pesticide registration process to collect information on human health and environmental risks from pesticides used on herbicide-resistant weeds, but no information is collected regarding synergism. Synergy occurs when the effect of a mixture of chemicals is greater than the sum of the individual effects.

In addition, labels for products such as glyphosate currently do not require information about the chemical pathway that describes how a herbicide causes harm to a plant (i.e., the “mechanism of action”). Not requiring this information on labels can result in the improper use of pesticides to combat herbicide-resistant weeds. The EPA’s pesticide registration and reporting processes also do not generate necessary herbicide resistance information for tracking, monitoring and identifying where resistance occurs.

There is a lack of communication and collaboration between the EPA and its public and private stakeholders regarding herbicide resistance management. This limits the reach of actions proposed and taken by the EPA, the development of meaningful alternatives, and the agency’s ability to proactively respond to herbicide resistance in the field. The EPA also does not have measures to track its progress addressing and slowing the spread of herbicide resistance. With improved management and oversight controls, the EPA can be better prepared to assess and develop actions to address and prevent future herbicide resistance issues.

Recommendations and Planned Agency Corrective Actions

We recommend that the Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (1) consider requiring herbicide labels include mechanisms of action, (2) assess the need for more information on synergism, (3) improve data collection and reporting on herbicide resistance, (4) develop performance metrics, and (5) develop a plan for establishing consistent communication with stakeholders. The EPA agreed with our recommendations. All recommendations have been resolved with corrective actions pending.


Item 2

EPA'S WATCHDOG OFFICE TELLS EPA: START ASSESSING TOXIC INTERACTIONS BETWEEN PESTICIDES

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2017/pesticides-06-21-2017.php#.WUw8RTj7coY.twitter

Contact: Nathan Donley, (971) 717-6406, ndonley@biologicaldiversity.org

21 June 2017

PORTLAND, Ore.— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General released a reporttoday recommending that before approving pesticides, the agency should first assess the enhanced toxicity caused by interactions of pesticide mixtures.

The report cited the findings of the Center for Biological Diversity’s landmark analysis, Toxic Concoctions: How the EPA Ignores the Dangers of Pesticide Cocktails, as evidence that the EPA has failed to collect the data needed to assess toxic interactions, or synergy, between pesticides.

“The EPA has stubbornly refused to assess interactions between pesticides that it knows can greatly increase the harm to nontarget plants and pollinators like bees and butterflies,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center and the author of Toxic Concoctions.

The Center’s 2016 report found that more than two-thirds of new pesticides registered in the past six years by four major pesticide companies had patents demonstrating their new products’ synergistic effects with other pesticides — effects the EPA failed to consider.

Today’s inspector general’s report noted that the majority of new pesticide patent applications identified synergy between some of the most frequently used pesticides in the United States, including glyphosate, atrazine, 2,4-D, dicamba and multiple neonicotinoids. The information on synergy was found by the Center in publically available patents, but apparently the pesticide companies had not shared it with the EPA.

The Center followed Donley’s report with a petition to the EPA asking that the agency require information on pesticide synergy in pesticide-registration applications. That information was required by regulation from 1984 until 2007, when the agency deleted the provision, calling it unnecessary. As a result, for the past 10 years the risks of synergistic combinations have been widely overlooked by the EPA in its approval of pesticides for food, lawns and everyday products. The EPA has yet to act on the Center’s petition.

However, in today’s report the inspector general noted that the pesticide office had agreed to consider whether synergistic effects data should be required for pesticide registration by June 2019.

“It’s astounding that the pesticide office plans to take two years to decide whether to collect information it clearly needs to assess the safety of pesticides applied to food, fields, forests and lawns,” said Donley. “Pesticide companies are already sending synergy information to the U.S. Patent Office — the EPA just needs to require that it be submitted as part of the pesticide-approval process. It’s not harder than that.”

The inspector general’s report also found that the EPA has not been doing enough to respond to the issue of herbicide resistance. Weeds resistant to the most commonly used herbicide, glyphosate, have now been found on 100 million acres of U.S. farmland in 36 states.

This resistance has directly led to increased herbicide use because farmers are opting to spray multiple herbicides in order to kill resistant weeds.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization withmore than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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