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EPA Seeks Comment on its Risk Assessment Methodology for Evaluating Potential Synergistic Effects of Pesticides on Non-Target Organisms
On September 9, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of, and an opportunity for comment on, a document describing an “interim process” that OPP’s Environmental Fate and Ecological Effects Division is currently using to evaluate potential synergistic effects of mixtures of pesticide active ingredients on non-target organisms. As part of a lawsuit challenging the 2012 decision by EPA to register Enlist Duo Herbicide (a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate), OPP scientists learned that patent applications for some registered pesticide products included claims that particular combinations of active ingredients provide “synergistic” control of target species. Although EPA was not at that time considering potential synergies in assessing the risk for ecological effects on non-target organisms, based on the patent application claims regarding synergy for Enlist Duo, EPA decided to request that the reviewing court vacate its registration decision and remand the application for Enlist Duo for further study of these effects and any measures that might be needed to mitigate the risk to non-target organisms. This decision sparked much controversy, and many in industry were concerned that patent application claims were not being correctly interpreted by EPA for the category of pesticide products at issue.
The new document released by EPA for review and comments is entitled: “Process for Receiving and Evaluating Data Supporting Assertions of Greater Than Additive (GTA) Effects in Mixtures of Pesticide Active Ingredients and Associated Guidance for Registrants.” EPA states that it “has generally been applying this interim process since 2016.” The process described in the document has five steps: (1) registration applicants must search for any granted patents that include synergy (GTA) claims for combinations of pesticides; (2) applicants must review the patent claims and supporting data for relevance to ecological risk assessment; (3) applicants must report to EPA all effects testing data from the relevant patents; (4) applicants must do a statistical analysis (using a method prescribed by EPA) to determine whether any observations of GTA effects are statistically significant; and (5) EPA will review all submitted information to decide whether it should be utilized in ecological risk assessment.
In the Federal Register notice, OPP lists five specific areas pertaining to the interim risk assessment process described in the document on which it is requesting comment:
When the National Research Council (NRC) evaluated the importance of toxicological interactions between pesticide active ingredients in 2013, the NRC concluded that such interactions are rare, but that EPA should nonetheless consider such interactions when the best available scientific evidence supports such an evaluation. In the current Federal Register notice, EPA makes it clear that it is uncertain concerning the utility for risk assessment of the information used by manufacturers to support synergistic effects claims in pesticide patents. According to EPA, 24 applicants for new registrations have submitted patent data to date, but only three of these submissions contained information that indicated a need for further testing and no submission ultimately led to any adjustment of the ecological risk assessment. At this juncture, EPA will continue collecting patent data that may be pertinent to GTA effects, but when it has sufficient experience upon to base a general policy it may either continue or improve this process or discontinue it after explaining why.
When EPA requested that the reviewing court vacate and remand the registration EPA had granted for Enlist Duo, the parties seeking judicial review located data in the patent applications that EPA had not previously seen or reviewed and that EPA believed could possibly be pertinent to potential adverse effects on non-target plants. EPA concluded that it should revisit the decision based on the additional data. Although EPA decided to request vacatur and remand, the applicant Dow AgroSciences had arguably followed all of the procedures then in place, because FIFRA Section 3(c)(5) allows EPA to waive data requirements pertaining to efficacy, and EPA typically registers pesticide product that are not intended to protect public health without any independent evaluation of efficacy data. Nevertheless, in general EPA may choose to evaluate pesticidal efficacy data; such circumstances in the past often involved cases where EPA was required to consider whether pesticide benefits are sufficient to outweigh identified risks. In the Enlist case, EPA determined that it should do so where potential synergy in pesticidal efficacy is pertinent to evaluating ecological effects on non-target species.
What EPA must decide now is how often efficacy data that has been deemed adequate by the Patent and Trademark Office to support a patent for a new pesticide mixture will have any material significance in the context of ecological risk assessment. Before EPA makes a determination whether or not patent data has sufficient pertinence to continue requiring routine collection and evaluation of such data, EPA has decided it is prudent to afford all stakeholders an opportunity to comment on whether EPA has been asking the right questions.
All comments on the draft document must be submitted no later than October 24, 2019.
On September 4, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs’ Environmental Fate and Effects Division (EFED) announced that the next Environmental Modeling Public Meeting (EMPM) will be held on October 16, 2019. The EMPM is a semi-annual public forum for EPA, pesticide registrants, and other stakeholders to discuss current issues related to modeling pesticide fate, transport, and exposure for risk assessments in a regulatory context.
In a press release to the public, EPA indicates that the topics covered at the October meeting will include sources of usage data (relating to the actual application of pesticides, in terms of the quantity applied or units treated); spatial applications of usage data; model parameterization; extrapolation of usage data to fill in gaps; temporal variability of usage; and updates on ongoing topics. Presentations concerning the incorporation of pesticide usage data into environmental exposure and ecological risk assessments will also be included.
Registration is required. Requests to participate in the meeting must be received on or before September 23, 2019, as noted in the Federal Register notice.
On August 28, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web resource for the Series 810 – Product Performance Test Guidelines: Antimicrobial Efficacy Test Guidelines. As of August 28, 2019, efficacy testing should be in compliance with the following Product Performance Test Guidelines published by EPA in February 2018:
The guidelines provide recommendations for the design and execution of laboratory studies to evaluate the effectiveness of antimicrobial pesticides against public health microbial pests. 83 Fed. Reg. 8666. EPA states that these FAQs “provide prompt and transparent guidance to all applicants regarding commonly asked questions concerning the 810 guidelines updated in February 2018.”
With the exception of confirmatory testing (as described under OCSPP guideline 810.2000, Section (B)(7)), all studies initiated on or after August 28, 2019, should be in compliance with the 2018 revised guidelines for testing. The study initiation date is defined under 40 CFR Part 160.3 as the date the protocol is signed by the study director. Studies that were initiated prior to the implementation date but submitted to EPA for review after the implementation date may use either the previous 2012 version of the guidelines or the 2018 revised guidelines, as appropriate. EPA states that it “intends to address confirmatory testing through a separate guidance, which will be made available for public comment prior to finalization.”
The FAQs include general testing questions and questions related to each specific guideline. The appendices to the FAQs include examples of label use-directions for dilutable products, repeat testing guidance with example scenarios, and sample virucidal calculations.
There has been some concern in the regulated community regarding the need for clarification on the guidelines before they became effective. EPA’s new FAQs are intended to provide these clarifications, but the timing of their issuance may be of concern to some. Also of interest is whether additional FAQs will be issued in the future.
On August 26, 2019, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) announced that the results of an NIEHS-funded study show that graphene could provide alternatives to chemicals in insect repellant and protective clothing. The study, “Mosquito Bite Prevention through Graphene Barrier Layers,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to the abstract, the researchers hypothesized that graphene films may provide mosquito bite protection for light, fiber-based fabrics. The researchers investigated the fundamental interactions between graphene-based films and the mosquito species Aedes aegypti through a combination of live mosquito experiments, needle penetration force measurements, and mathematical modeling of mechanical puncture phenomena. The abstract states that “the results show that graphene or graphene oxide nanosheet films in the dry state are highly effective at suppressing mosquito biting behavior on live human skin. Surprisingly, behavioral assays indicate that the primary mechanism is not mechanical puncture resistance, but rather interference with host chemosensing.” The researchers propose that the interference is “a molecular barrier effect that prevents Aedes from detecting skin-associated molecular attractants trapped beneath the graphene films and thus prevents the initiation of biting behavior.” According to the abstract, placing water or human sweat on the external film surface circumvents the molecular barrier effect. In this scenario, the abstract states, “pristine graphene films continue to protect through puncture resistance -- a mechanical barrier effect -- while graphene oxide films absorb the water and convert to mechanically soft hydrogels that become nonprotective.”
On August 27, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that makes several changes to the current “Crop Group 19: Herbs and Spices Group.” This latest proposal, which is the fifth in a series of crop group amendments, was created in response to a petition developed by the International Crop Group Consulting Committee (ICGCC) workgroup that was submitted by the Interregional Research Project Number 4 (IR-4). The goals of the crop group amendment program include reducing regulatory burden, coordination with international definitions, and removing barriers to trade. The major components of this proposal are revision of the commodity definition for marjoram; addition of three new commodity definitions for basil, edible flowers, and mint; and replacement of the existing “Crop Group 19: Herbs and Spices Group” with two new crop groups, “Crop Group 25: Herb Group” and “Crop Group 26: Spice Group.” Recognizing that the existing combined Crop Group 19 Herb and Spice Group has limited the establishment of crop group tolerances, EPA has proposed creating the two new separate crop groups to benefit herb and spice growers. The new crop groups are quite large, containing 317 herb commodities in Crop Group 25 and 166 spice commodities in Crop Group 26. The proposal specifies all commodities in the new crop groups (and the subgroups therein, i.e., 25A and 25B for fresh herbs and dried herbs) and provides updated representative commodities for each crop group and subgroup.
The Federal Register notice requests that comments on the proposal be submitted on or before October 28, 2019. The public can submit comments at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2006-0766.
On August 23, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the receipt of 10 applications to amend currently registered pesticide products to add hemp as a new use site. The 10 application amendments are the result of the 2018 Farm Bill, signed in to law on December 20, 2018, that removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and legalized commercial use and production of hemp that contains less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
EPA states in the notice that Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 3(c)(4) does not require EPA to provide notice and opportunity to comment concerning these 10 applications because hemp falls within the terrestrial outdoor and residential outdoor use pattern previously approved for the pesticidal active ingredients in question, and approval of the applications would therefore not involve "a changed use pattern." Instead, EPA states that it has decided to provide an opportunity to comment in this instance "because of the potential significant interest from the public" and to be "completely transparent about these applications." EPA also states that it does not intend to provide notice or opportunity to comment for similar applications to add hemp that are likely to be submitted in the future.
EPA also states that the products with requested label amendments contain active ingredients for which EPA "has previously determined the residues will be safe under any reasonably foreseeable circumstances." Each active ingredient has an established tolerance exemption for residues on all raw agricultural or food commodities.
The 10 products for which EPA has received an application to add hemp are:
Once public comments are received, EPA anticipates making its decision on adding hemp as a new use site on the specific products before the end of 2019, so that these products may be available for the 2020 growing season.
Although the Federal government has legalized commercial production and use of hemp (as opposed to marijuana that contains higher levels of THC), not every State has changed its laws to conform to the new classification. EPA took the unusual step of announcing receipt of the new amendment applications at Hemp Production Field Day at the University of Kentucky. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has long been a proponent of commercial hemp production, and about 1,000 growers in Kentucky now have licenses to grow hemp for commercial use.
As hemp production increases, there will also be increased demand for pesticides to combat weeds, insects, and plant diseases that pose a potential threat to this crop. Although hemp fiber and oil have many potential industrial uses, hemp also has potential medicinal uses because extracts containing cannabidiol (CBD) are now being widely marketed for their purported health benefits. This use of hemp means that EPA will have to consider whether new tolerances may be required for some active ingredients before they can applied to hemp. As EPA has noted, the active ingredients in the 10 products for which EPA announced that applications are pending to add labeling for hemp already have tolerance exemptions, and therefore do not present this issue.
Comments are due on or before September 23, 2019. The public can submit comments at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0369.
EPA Announces FIFRA SAP Public Meeting to Consider Approaches for Incorporating Surface Water Monitoring Data in Pesticide Risk Assessments and Requests Nominations of Ad hoc Expert Reviewers
On August 13, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing a four-day meeting of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) will be held November 19-22, 2019. The meeting location will be announced in the future on the FIFRA SAP website. The title of the SAP meeting is “Approaches for Quantitative Use of Surface Water Monitoring Data in Pesticide Drinking Water Assessments.” Pesticide registrants have long advocated for the opportunity to use monitoring data in drinking water assessments in place of estimates generated using current modeling approaches. It is expected that EPA will present work that the Environmental Fate and Effects Division (EFED) has completed to permit use of surface water monitoring data.
The Federal Register Notice also requests nominations for ad hoc reviewers with particular expertise related to the particular issues to be addressed by this panel. Nominations are to be submitted on or before September 12, 2019.
California DPR Issues Cancellation Notices for Chlorpyrifos, and Establishes a Work Group to Recommend and to Develop Alternatives to Chlorpyrifos
On August 14, 2019, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued cancellation notices to thirteen California registrants of pesticide products containing chlorpyrifos, including Dow Agrosciences LLC (now Corteva). Each of these notices is referred to as an "Accusation," and each affected registrant has 15 days to request a hearing concerning the proposed cancellation. DPR's issuance of these notices followed a final decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny an administrative petition to revoke the tolerances and cancel the U.S. registrations for chlorpyrifos. DPR states: "Despite the Trump administration's reversal of a decision to ban the pesticide at the federal level, California continues to move forward to protect public health, workers, and the environment." Although it is unusual for a State to act unilaterally to cancel a State registration for a pesticide that is still registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), FIFRA Section 24(a) provides that States may separately regulate Federally registered pesticides so long as they do not purport to authorize any sale or use that is otherwise prohibited under FIFRA.
The risk assessment that supports DPR's proposal to cancel chlorpyrifos products is based on five animal studies published in 2016, 2017, and 2018, that report neurotoxicity from chlorpyrifos at exposure levels that are considerably lower than the levels that cause acetylcholinesterase inhibition. Based on its evaluation these studies, DPR has concluded that developmental neurotoxicity is the critical endpoint for chlorpyrifos and has derived a point of departure for chlorpyrifos risk assessment. Based on this assessment, DPR previously concluded that chlorpyrifos should be designated as a Toxic Air Contaminant (TAC). DPR presented its TAC findings to California's Scientific Review Panel at a meeting on July 30, 2018, and the Panel subsequently concluded that the DPR assessment of the developmental neurotoxicity of chlorpyrifos was "based on sound scientific knowledge, and represents a balanced assessment of our current scientific understanding."
On the same day DPR issued its cancellation notices for chlorpyrifos, DPR also announced it has established an Alternatives to Chlorpyrifos Work Group with experts from "agriculture, California universities, environmental justice groups, farmworker health and safety organizations, and pesticide manufacturers…" DPR has asked this Work Group to develop short-term practical alternatives to chlorpyrifos, along with a five-year action plan. The Work Group is supposed to conclude its work by the spring of 2020. The budget for 2019-2020 approved by the California Legislature also includes $5 million in grant funding to develop sustainable alternatives to chlorpyrifos.
The DPR decision to cancel chlorpyrifos relies primarily on new animal studies that report that chlorpyrifos causes neurodevelopmental effects at levels that are well below those that inhibit cholinesterase. DPR refers in passing to the epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos that EPA used to make its Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) determination for all organophosphate (OP) pesticides, but these data were not used by DPR to derive its point of departure for chlorpyrifos risk assessment.
EPA scientists have not yet prepared a formal evaluation of the new animal studies for chlorpyrifos, but EPA's decision to deny the petition to revoke tolerances and cancel registrations for chlorpyrifos states that EPA intends to evaluate the new animal studies as part of its registration review deliberations for chlorpyrifos. The FIFRA registrations for chlorpyrifos may also be affected by pending judicial actions challenging EPA's decision to deny the petition to revoke the tolerances and cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos. In this complicated environment, it will be important to monitor the registrants’ and industry’s response to DPR's cancellation actions, as well as their efforts on the pending Federal court litigation and EPA's registration review process for chlorpyrifos.
EPA Issues Guidance Regarding Prop 65 Labeling Requirements for Glyphosate Products and OEHHA Responds
On August 7, 2019, EPA took long awaited action concerning the inclusion of Prop 65 warning statements for glyphosate on EPA registered pesticide labels, which will likely impact the broader ongoing debate over EPA approval of Prop 65 warnings on pesticide labels. EPA’s August 7, 2019, letter to glyphosate registrants states that EPA “will no longer approve labeling that includes the Proposition 65 warning statement for glyphosate-containing products.” EPA stated further that “[t]he warning statement must also be removed from all product labels where the only basis for the warning is glyphosate and from any materials considered labeling under FIFRA for those products.” Moreover, EPA unequivocally states that “pesticide products bearing the Proposition 65 warning statement due to the presence of glyphosate are misbranded” under FIFRA Section 2(q)(1)(A). Registrants with glyphosate products currently bearing Prop 65 warning language, where the exclusive basis for such warning is based on the presence of glyphosate, must submit draft amended labeling that removes this language by November 5, 2019.
By way of background, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) listed glyphosate as a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer on July 7, 2017. OEHHA’s listing of glyphosate as a substance under Prop 65 is based on the International Agency on the Research for Cancer (IARC) classifying it as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” EPA scientists subsequently completed an independent review of the available scientific data on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate and do not agree with the IARC classification. Additional information regarding glyphosate is available at B&C’s blog.
Also of note is a February 26, 2018, preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of California, in response to a motion filed by a coalition including Monsanto, CropLife America, and several growers associations alleging that the IARC classification decision for glyphosate is contrary to the international scientific consensus, that the required Prop 65 warning would be misleading to the ordinary consumer, that compelling the manufacturers of glyphosate to provide such a warning would violate the First Amendment because the warning is not factual and uncontroversial, and that the applicable criteria for injunctive relief were met. The February 26, injunction precluded OEHHA from enforcing its Prop 65 warning requirements against glyphosate registrants that otherwise would have taken effect on July 7, 2018. The Court did not rule that glyphosate should be removed from the Prop 65 list as a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, but did state that products containing glyphosate would not be required to comply with the warning requirements. In issuing the preliminary injunction, the Court stated that the required warnings are “false and misleading” and that plaintiffs “have shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim, are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and that the balance of equities and public interest favor an injunction, the court will grant plaintiffs’ request to enjoin [Prop 65]’s warning requirement for glyphosate.” More information on that case is available at B&C’s blog. That injunction has not been appealed and remains in place.
Although the glyphosate warning that EPA has refused to allow is based on OEHHA’s recent listing under Prop 65, Prop 65 warnings on pesticide labels generally have been a significant issue since 2016 when OEHHA issued revised regulations regarding the content and transmission of Prop 65 warnings. As a result of these revisions, many registrants sought to add Prop 65 warning requirements to pesticide labels to meet Prop 65 requirements, but many registrants have not been able to obtain EPA approval for such warnings, resulting in much controversy and discussion. More information regarding the changes to Prop 65 warning requirements also are available at B&C’s blog.
In its press release announcing its guidance to glyphosate registrants, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states: “It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk. We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy.” EPA states that its “independent evaluation of available scientific data included a more extensive and relevant dataset than IARC considered during its evaluation of glyphosate, from which the agency concluded that glyphosate is ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.’” Wheeler is further quoted as stating: “It is critical that federal regulatory agencies like EPA relay to consumers accurate, scientific based information about risks that pesticides may pose to them. EPA’s notification to glyphosate registrants is an important step to ensuring the information shared with the public on a federal pesticide label is correct and not misleading.”
OEHHA immediately released its own press release on August 13, 2019, in which it “objects to US EPA’s characterization of any warning concerning glyphosate’s carcinogenicity as a false claim.’” After reiterating OEHHA’s listing glyphosate based on the IARC determination, OEHHA states that EPA’s position “conflicts with the determination made by IARC” and that “it is disrespectful of the scientific process for US EPA to categorically dismiss any warnings based on IARC’s determinations as false.”
The Court’s February 26, 2018, preliminary injunction was considered a significant development both for glyphosate specifically and perhaps for Prop 65 warning requirements generally, especially considering the recent influx to EPA of label amendments seeking EPA approval of revised Prop 65 warning language to address OEHHA’s revised regulatory changes. EPA’s guidance is equally significant, as EPA has now rejected the inclusion of a Prop 65 warning that EPA believes is misleading on a federal pesticide product label.
FIFRA Section 24(b) expressly prohibits any State from requiring any label language for a registered pesticide product beyond the labeling approved by EPA, and EPA has now declined to approve pesticide labeling that includes the Prop 65 warning for glyphosate. In some instances, EPA has been willing as a courtesy to approve labeling changes requested by a State, but the glyphosate determination demonstrates that EPA will not accept any label revisions that conflict materially with its own determinations. Although glyphosate is a fairly complex and controversial case, it will be important for registrants to monitor the evolution of EPA’s standard for when it will or will not approve a Prop 65 warning on a federal label, since this issue has been the subject of considerable controversy over the past several years.
Parties Who Requested that EPA Revoke All Tolerances and Cancel All Registrations for Chlorpyrifos, and Eight States, File New Petitions Challenging EPA’s 2019 Order Denying that Request, Seek Consolidation with the Existing Chlorpyrifos Case, and Oppose a Motion by EPA to Dismiss the Existing Case as Moot
On August 7, 2019, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Pesticide Action Network North America, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other petitioners (Petitioners) filed a new petition in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking judicial review of United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) orders denying their request that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos. On August 8, 2019, New York, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia (States) also filed a new petition for judicial review concerning the refusal of EPA to ban chlorpyrifos. The Petitioners and the States seek judicial review of the July 18, 2019, final order by EPA dismissing all objections to the initial decision by EPA to retain tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos, and of EPA’s March 29, 2017, order that initially denied a 2007 petition to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos.
The Petitioners and the States also seek consolidation of their newly filed petitions for judicial review with currently pending chlorpyrifos litigation in LULAC, et al. v. Wheeler, et al. As part of rehearing in the LULAC case, the Ninth Circuit vacated a prior decision that ordered EPA to cancel chlorpyrifos registrations, and instead issued a writ of mandamus requiring EPA to respond to objections to the 2017 denial order within 90 days. EPA then issued the July 18, 2019, order denying all objections, along with a motion on July 19, 2019, to dismiss the LULAC case as moot. EPA seeks dismissal of LULAC because it contends that the 2017 initial order was never itself reviewable, and EPA has now done everything that the writ of mandamus required. The Petitioners oppose the motion to dismiss because it would require the Court to take a position on a jurisdictional issue which they contend was not decided during rehearing. The Petitioners and the States also argue that dismissal would be unnecessary and inefficient, requiring the challenging parties to reconstitute the record for review compiled in LULAC.
Petitioners also note that the Ninth Circuit retained jurisdiction when it issued mandamus in LULAC, and they request that their combined challenge to the EPA decision to retain the existing tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos be heard by the Court en banc as well.
The latest petitions for judicial review of EPA’s 2019 decision to retain all tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos pending registration review were anticipated by all parties, and all parties agree that the procedural requisites for a judicial determination concerning the legality of EPA’s final decision to deny the 2007 administrative petition have now been satisfied. The Petitioners and the States will likely argue that prior scientific determinations by EPA, including EPA analysis of epidemiology studies that purport to establish a link between exposure to chlorpyrifos and adverse neurodevelopmental effects in children, require that EPA proceed to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos, while EPA will likely argue that difficult scientific issues concerning chlorpyrifos remain unresolved and should be addressed by EPA as part of the pending registration review for chlorpyrifos.
In addition to the dispute about combining the new petitions for review with the LULAC case, an interesting element of the latest filing by the Petitioners is that they attempt to bootstrap en banc review of the 2019 order in which EPA finally denied the administrative petition to revoke tolerances and cancel registrations for chlorpyrifos. En banc review for an initial hearing (as opposed to en banc rehearing in a previously decided case) is allowed by the applicable appellate rules, but such review is disfavored and would be highly unusual. Petitioners argue that it is warranted here because the en banc panel in the rehearing in the LULAC case reserved jurisdiction. Given the motion by EPA to dismiss the LULAC case as moot, it can be presumed that EPA is likely to oppose this vicarious argument for en banc judicial review. EPA can argue that the only reason the en banc panel retained jurisdiction was to assure that EPA would timely comply with the writ of mandamus that required EPA to rule on the objections within 90 days.
For further information on the long history of litigation concerning the petition to ban chlorpyrifos, please review our prior blog entries.
On August 2, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) announced that it has decided to reduce the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) safety factor for infants and children for pyrethroids from its current value of 3X to a new value of 1X. This decision is based on a July 1, 2019, OPP report entitled “USEPA Office of Pesticide Programs’ Re-evaluation of the FQPA Safety Factor for Pyrethroids: Updated Literature and CAPHRA Program Data Review.” Risk assessments incorporating the new lower FQPA safety factor for pyrethroids will be utilized in developing proposed registration review decisions for these compounds, and EPA has stated it will be taking public comment on the OPP report reducing the FQPA safety factor for pyrethroids after EPA publishes a notice of availability for the proposed registration review decisions.
Pyrethroids are a group of insecticides that includes natural pyrethrins (found in chrysanthemums) and more than 30 synthetic compounds with similar structure and activity. EPA has determined that it is appropriate to establish one FQPA safety factor for all pyrethroid active ingredients because these compounds all have the same mode of action and similar patterns of toxicity. Pyrethroid insecticides are widely used in and around residential structures, on pets, in treated clothing, for mosquito control, and in various agricultural applications. EPA indicates that although pyrethroids have relatively low mammalian toxicity, EPA believes that the principal concern for human risk assessment is a potential to cause acute neurotoxic effects.
The FQPA safety factor is intended to account for “potential pre- and post-natal toxicity and completeness of data with respect to exposure and toxicity to infants and children.” The FQPA safety factor is set by statute at a default value of 10X, but EPA may select a lower value for this safety factor if EPA determines based on “reliable data” that such a lower value will be safe for infants and children. This determination necessarily depends on EPA’s assessment of the quality of the data that address the susceptibility to adverse effects of the pesticide of infants and children. Based on current EPA guidance, OPP evaluates the need for the default FQPA safety factor of 10X in two components: a safety factor of about 3X assigned to pharmacodynamic (PD) differences and a safety factor of about 3X assigned to pharmacokinetic (PK) differences. PD differences refer to the sequence of events at the molecular or cellular level leading to a toxic response to a substance, while PK differences refer to absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of the substance.
EPA previously evaluated the adequacy of the database concerning risks to infants and children posed by pyrethroid active ingredients in 2011. At that time, EPA decided that there were sufficient data concerning the mechanism for potential neurotoxic effects of pyrethroids to allow EPA to reduce the factor for PD differences to 1X, but EPA retained the 3X factor for PK differences because EPA believed that the available pharmacokinetic data for pyrethroids was not sufficient for EPA to conclude that infants and children would not confront a greater risk of neurotoxic outcomes. After EPA made the 2011 determinations, the Council for the Advancement of Pyrethroid Human Risk Assessment (CAPHRA) conducted a variety of additional research to address whether children are more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of pyrethroid exposure, and this research assessed both PD and PK differences. CAPHRA submitted a peer-reviewed physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PbPk) model for pyrethroids to EPA in 2018. After reviewing the new CAPHRA data and the current public literature for pyrethroids, EPA has now concluded that the factor for PD differences should be maintained at 1X, but the factor for PK differences should be reduced from 3X to 1X. Collectively, these determinations mean that EPA has concluded that there are reliable data to support a determination that infants and children are not more susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of pyrethroids than adults, so there is no need to retain either the default FQPA safety factor of 10X or the previous FQPA safety factor used for pyrethroids of 3X.
The adoption by EPA of a new FQPA safety factor of 1X for all pyrethroid active ingredients will likely facilitate retention of existing use patterns and use directions for a large number of pyrethroid insecticides that are commonly used in and around human residences and workplaces.
From a larger perspective, the process by which EPA evaluated and selected a proposed FQPA safety factor for pyrethroids may be seen as typical for most pesticides or classes of pesticides. The selection of a FQPA safety factor for a particular pesticide usually is based on review of available animal data, including PD and PK data, to determine whether there is any basis for concluding that infants and children may be more susceptible to adverse effects of that pesticide than adults. Where EPA decides that the animal data addressing this question are insufficient, affected registrants and other proponents of registration can consult with EPA concerning studies that will address the uncertainties. Depending on the outcome of such studies, EPA may be able to conclude that there is a scientific basis for a partial or complete reduction of the default FQPA safety factor.
Compared to this typical evaluation process, the recent decision by EPA to retain the default FQPA safety factor for all organophosphate (OP) active ingredients, which was based on EPA’s interpretation of neurodevelopmental effects reported at low exposure levels (below the threshold for acetylcholinesterase inhibition) in epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos, may be seen as an aberration. EPA’s decision to rely on epidemiology studies that may be susceptible to methodological biases, and the decision to utilize epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos to set the FQPA safety factors for all OP pesticides, have both been controversial.
EPA’s recent decision to retain the current tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos was based in significant part on EPA’s interpretation of a PbPk model for chlorpyrifos previously submitted by DowAgro (now Corteva), which mitigated to some degree EPA’s retention of the default FQPA safety factor for chlorpyrifos. Corteva may submit further data addressing PD and PK differences for chlorpyrifos, and EPA has also stated that it intends to review some new animal studies for chlopyrifos, which purport to show neurodevelopmental effects at low exposure levels. Perhaps these data will allow EPA to establish a point of departure (POD) for chlorpyrifos risk assessment without any need for a further excursion into the unfamiliar risk assessment territory represented by EPA’s use of epidemiology data for chlorpyrifos.
On July 12, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a Decision Memorandum that it has registered new uses and restored previously registered uses for sulfoxaflor. EPA has approved the use of sulfoxaflor on alfalfa, corn, cacao, grains (millet, oats), pineapple, sorghum, teff, teosinte, tree plantations, and restored the uses on citrus cotton, cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, watermelons, some gourds), soybeans, and strawberries. EPA states that substantial data show that when sulfoxaflor is used according to the label, it poses no significant risk to human health and poses a lower risk to non-target wildlife, including pollinators, than other registered alternative products. EPA’s registration decision is available at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0889-0570.
EPA’s decision follows an opinion issued on September 10, 2015, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacating EPA’s 2013 unconditional registration for the pesticide sulfoxaflor, and remanding the matter to EPA to obtain further studies and data regarding the effects of sulfoxaflor on bees and bee colonies. That decision is discussed in our blog item available here. In response to that decision, EPA also issued a cancellation order that included provisions for the disposition of existing stocks of sulfoxaflor products.
After the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, EPA reevaluated the data and on October 14, 2016, approved sulfoxaflor end-use registrations for limited uses that did not include crops that attract bees. EPA also has been granting emergency exemptions for sulfoxaflor since 2012, with the most recent emergency exemptions granted on June 17, 2019, for the use of sulfoxaflor to control tarnished plant bugs on cotton in 12 states, and to control sugarcane aphids on sorghum in 14 states.
In the July 12, 2019, decision adding new uses, restoring previous uses, and removing certain application restrictions, EPA states an unconditional registration under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 3(c)(5) for new uses of sulfoxaflor is backed by substantial data, including numerous pollinator studies submitted by the registrant, Dow AgroSciences (DAS). With specific regard to sulfoxaflor’s impact on bees, EPA states the following:
EPA’s decision also removes previously imposed application restrictions:
EPA’s decision includes the following crop specific restrictions:
EPA found that the FIFRA standard for registration is met for the registration of sulfoxaflor on the uses approved, and that the benefits of these uses outweigh the risks, but also set specific label requirements including restrictions to minimize potential exposure to bees:
This new decision by EPA may finally be the culmination of a long and convoluted process to register sulfoxaflor. The litigation that resulted in vacatur of the initial registrations began in 2013. At the time the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in 2015, vacatur was viewed by many observers as a novel and radical response to an EPA decision to register a new pesticide. Since that time, registrants and users of newly approved active ingredients have encountered more aggressive litigation in which vacatur is often cited as a possible remedy. This has created more uncertainty and concern about product availability, even after EPA approves an eagerly anticipated new product to meet a pressing pest control need. In the case of sulfoxaflor, EPA has clearly determined that the data submitted by DAS demonstrate that any risks to pollinators presented by sulfoxaflor will be less than the risks presented by currently registered insecticides sulfoxaflor is likely to replace. This determination concerning relative risk based on review of additional data should address the deficiencies in the EPA rationale found by the Court when it vacated the 2013 sulfoxaflor registrations.
Interestingly, the current EPA decision may raise a similar issue concerning the sufficiency of EPA’s rationale concerning the effects of sulfoxaflor on endangered species. EPA states the following in its Decision Memorandum:
While it is clearly sensible for EPA and the Services to prioritize the limited resources available to make and to consult concerning effects determinations for endangered species by addressing existing pesticide classes that are likely to present the greatest risk before products with new chemistries that are intended to be more selective, it remains to be seen whether reviewing courts will be inclined to accept this type of rationale. In particular, it will be interesting to see whether the sufficiency of this approach to endangered species determinations becomes an issue in any future litigation regarding sulfoxaflor or other newly registered active ingredients.
EPA Issues Final Order Denying Objections to EPA’s March 2017 Order Denying PANNA’s and NRDC’s 2007 Petition to Revoke All Tolerances and Cancel All Registrations for Chlorpyrifos
On July 18, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a pre-publication version of a Federal Register notice announcing a final order denying the Pesticide Action Network North America’s (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) 2007 Petition requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos (Order). This Order constitutes final Agency action denying all of the Petitioners’ objections to EPA’s previous refusal to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos. This Order also constitutes final administrative action concerning all parts of the 2007 Petition that were not previously addressed by EPA. Given the previous extensive chlorpyrifos litigation, this latest action by EPA will likely lead to further litigation challenging EPA’s decision to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).
The FIFRA registrations and related tolerances for chlorpyrifos have a complicated regulatory and legal history, as discussed in previous blogs available here.
EPA’s new Order denies objections made by PANNA and NRDC under the FFDCA to EPA’s March 29, 2017, order denying the request by PANNA and NRDC that EPA revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos and cancel all chlorpyrifos product registrations. In the Order, EPA begins by summarizing its prior responses to the 2007 Petition, in which EPA denied each of ten claims raised in support of the Petitioners’ request that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances and cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations. The ten claims are:
EPA’s Order next focuses on the June 2017 objections to the March 29, 2017, Denial Order that were filed by several public interest groups and states. The three main objections, and EPA’s response, are as follows:
This latest EPA assessment appears to be more finely crafted than the earlier March 2017 response to the tolerance revocation Petition. EPA explains that it does not consider the epidemiology studies cited by the Petitioners to be persuasive sufficiently to change EPA’s fundamental approach to assessing chlorpyrifos risks. EPA notes that its current risk assessment utilizes the default 10X safety factor for infants and children specified by the FQPA, so any argument that it has not utilized this safety factor is moot. At the same time, EPA maintains that the epidemiology studies do not justify changing EPA’s point of departure for risk assessment, which remains the threshold for 10 percent acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition. EPA states that there are significant problems with using the epidemiology studies for risk assessment, including lack of access to the underlying data, the absence of any known mechanism for neurodevelopmental effects below the threshold for AChE inhibition, and a lack of scientific consensus on a method for choosing an alternate point of departure based on the epidemiology studies. This interpretation of the epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos will remain controversial and these studies will continue to be cited by those who seek to eliminate chlorpyrifos use.
EPA has also taken a position that the burden is on the Petitioners to support a petition to revoke tolerances with reliable data. What is less clear is “how much” evidence EPA considers sufficient to meet the threshold for tolerance revocation. Meanwhile, EPA will defer its assessment of possible neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos below the threshold for AChE inhibition pending completion of the registration review for chlorpyrifos. The deadline for EPA to complete registration review is October 1, 2022, although EPA states that it intends to expedite this process and to issue a proposed registration review decision by October 2020.
EPA also has included in its decision an intriguing discussion of some new animal studies for chlorpyrifos that purport to show low-level neurodevelopmental effects from chlorpyrifos. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation relied substantially on these new studies when it designated chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant. If these new chlorpyrifos studies are deemed credible, they could supplant efforts to use the chlorpyrifos epidemiology data in risk assessments and allow EPA to establish a new point of departure for chlorpyrifos that is not based on AChE inhibition. Rather than disregarding these new data, which were not submitted in support of the tolerance revocation Petition, EPA says affirmatively that it intends to review them in the pending registration review.
EPA Extends Deadline to Submit Comments on Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision for Glyphosate
On June 26, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was extending the comment deadline on its Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision (PID) for glyphosate acid and its various salt forms. 84 Fed. Reg. 30112. EPA states that it is extending the comment deadline “after receiving public comments requesting additional time to review the Glyphosate Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision and supporting materials.”
The deadline to submit comments was extended from July 5, 2019, to September 3, 2019. The public can submit comments on EPA’s proposed decision at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361.
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog.
On June 14, 2019, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) began a public consultation on Discussion Document DIS2019-01, “Consultation on Inspecting Confidential Test Data for Post-market Reviews in the Reading Room.” Before a pesticide can be registered for use in Canada, PMRA states that it reviews the available scientific test data to determine whether there are concerns for human health or safety, or the environment, when the product is used according to the label. Some of the data reviewed by the PMRA scientists include confidential test data on:
According to PMRA, the purpose of the consultation document is to seek input on a proposal to expand access to confidential test data by inviting interested members of the public to inspect these data at the proposed decision stage for post-market reviews such as re-evaluations and special reviews. Currently, PMRA prepares confidential test data for public inspection only after it makes a final decision. PMRA proposes to allow interested parties seeking to understand the scientific basis for a proposed re-evaluation or special review decision to inspect the data used by PMRA earlier in the process. PMRA states that by viewing these data earlier, comments submitted through the existing consultation process may be more well-informed.
PMRA notes that the proposed change would still require the inspection of confidential test data to take place at its National Head Office in Ottawa, Ontario. PMRA states that it is aware that this could be burdensome and is investigating alternative approaches for the future that may allow the inspection of data through other means, such as satellite reading rooms or secure portals. Publication of the consultation document began a 60-day comment period.