Toxic Pesticides: EPA Cancellation Rejected

The process of protecting people, animals, and the planet from toxic pesticides is bass-ackwards. Changing how things are done at the EPA may be long overdue. The registered pesticide approval process is not in favor of environmental protection as much as it is in favor of allowing chemical companies to put products on the market before they should be allowed to do so.

The US Environmental Protection Agency grants temporary approval to sell registered pesticides prior to discovering whether or not they present toxicities that present a danger to the environment, wildlife, or humans. Then the investigation into the realm of possibilities, and when certain levels of toxic dangers are identified, they send A Notice of Cancellation out to the companies using the chemical in products, with the understanding that a letter of voluntary cancellation will arrive in the EPA,s hands within 30 days of the date the cancellation was issued. Now, even temporary and conditional approval means nothing.

Bayer Refuses to Comply

And they’re not alone. Agrochemical manufacturers are ganging up on the US government and telling them what they will do? The phrase – ‘give ’em an inch, and they’ll take a mile’ – comes to mind. The EPA’s process only invites this kind of event. Now that they’ve allowed these companies to develop a market for their crop insecticides that provides cash flow from 25% of US tobacco crops, and 14% of almonds, watermelons, and peppers harvested in the country, why would they want to kiss that kind of money goodbye? But both businesses were aware that it was conditional approval from the get go, and agreed to the terms of cancellation, should the EPA find that the active ingredient was found to  be a toxic danger.

Obviously, they assumed that the EPA would simply take the information presented as the last word on their products’ environmental dangers. What they weren’t counting on was the discovery that flubendiamide is extremely more toxic as it breaks down than when applied, which happens 6 times a year. And the chemical in it’s half-life builds up in the soil, creating greater danger of it winding up in groundwater and waterways where it will kill off food sources of fish in the wild.

Agr-Pulse commentary from the government agency: “EPA studies that show “flubendiamide breaks down into a more highly toxic material that is harmful to species that are an important part of aquatic food chains, especially for fish, and is persistent in the environment,” EPA said in its press release. “EPA concluded that continued use of the product would result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment. EPA requested a voluntary cancellation in accordance with the conditions of the original registration.””

Both the Belt 480 SC product from Bayer CropScience, and VeticaM from Japanese chemical company Nichino America contains this newly cancelled chemical. The list of crops this product can be applied to includes some 200 food plants grown for human and animal consumption in the US. The manufacturers are keenly aware of it’s rapid transit into groundwater when applied to permeable soil, and it’s high leaching capabilities, as well as it’s toxicity to aquatic invertebrates.  (See the Environmental/Ecological Hazards on the label links below.)

Despite Concerns Toxic Pesticides Approved?

This part makes one wonder who’s team player was in place to make things happen as desired:

Despite concerns of accumulation from repetitious applications from the beginning, the EPA granted conditional approval? Additionally, it appears that fluebendiamide is approved only for use inside permanent greenhouses in the EU… but in the US it’s sprayed where it can create adverse conditions to the open environment, and water. And:

“Bayer CropScience, is refusing, so far, to stop selling the chemical. The company says that the EPA is relying on computer models that overstate the environmental risks, rather than observations of flubendiamide in the real world” — NPR Salt

However, at the time of the conditional approval, the EPA requested missing data reports in the form of buffer strip studies over a 3-year period. No such information was ever provided by Bayer, so continued conditional approval without sufficient reproducible study data should be a registration withdrawal trigger in itself.

Noncompliance ignored, and original agreement to cancel the product if the EPA decided to withdraw the registration tossed by the wayside… Bayer will not halt sales or manufacturing of Belt 480, and demands a hearing in the appropriate law court.

It is unclear whether this insecticide could present dangers to pollinators, though as toxic pesticides go, it will get into get into streams, lakes, and rivers during run off, which kill off fish from starvation. One university report says it doesn’t harm bees, but it’s target is a broad number of moth larvae worms that are crop hazards.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.