Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. serves small, medium, and large pesticide product registrants and other stakeholders in the agricultural and biocidal sectors, in virtually every aspect of pesticide law, policy, science, and regulation.
On November 19, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is extending COVID-19 activation of the emerging viral pathogens (EVP) guidance for antimicrobial pesticides indefinitely. EPA states that its EVP guidance for antimicrobial pesticides is a part of the federal government’s pandemic preparedness, allowing manufacturers to provide EPA with data, even in advance of an outbreak, demonstrating that their products are effective against hard-to-kill viruses.
EPA activated its EVP guidance for antimicrobial pesticides for the first time in January 2020 in response to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2. EPA has allowed for expedited review and approval of surface disinfectant products for use against SARS-CoV-2 for more than 12 months, including accelerated review for products seeking to add EVP claims to product labels. To date, EPA has added 591 products with emerging viral pathogens claims to its list of Disinfectants for Coronavirus (List N).
EPA states that registrants must remove EVP claims from consumer messaging no later than 24 months after the original notification of the outbreak, unless directed otherwise by EPA. With this extension, EPA will now provide a notification at least six months before inactivating the EVP guidance for SARS-CoV-2 to allow registrants time to adjust product marketing materials as required.
Additional information on the EVP guidance is available here.
Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is pleased to announce that FIFRA Tutor™ regulatory training courses are now available at www.FIFRAtutor.com. Professionals can preview and enroll in on-demand classes to complete at their own pace and timing. FIFRA Tutor joins B&C’s existing TSCA Tutor® training courses in offering efficient and essential training for chemical regulatory professionals, and a third training program, HazCom GHS Tutor, is planned for 2022.
Additional modules in the FIFRA Tutor curriculum will be released throughout 2022.
Courses can be completed at the learner’s own pace, and enrollment is valid for one full year. Interested professionals should visit www.FIFRAtutor.com to view sample course segments and purchase modules.
Watch a preview of TSCA Tutor and FIFRA Tutor courses: T101 – TSCA Inventory Overview, T202 – TSCA Section 5 (Part 1) TSCA Chemical Inventory, Exemptions, and F109 – Defining Tolerances and Their Regulation.
Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. is a Washington, D.C., law firm focusing on conventional, biobased, and nanoscale industrial, agricultural, and specialty chemical product approval and regulation, and associated business issues. B&C represents clients in many businesses, including basic, specialty, and agricultural and antimicrobial chemicals; biotechnology, nanotechnology, and emerging transformative technologies; paints and coatings; plastic products; and chemical manufacturing, formulation, distribution, and consumer product sectors. Visit www.lawbc.com for more information.
Federal Agencies Reaffirm Commitment to Protecting Endangered Species, Providing Effective Pest Control Tools, and Regulating Pesticide Use in a Fair, Transparent, and Predictable Manner
On November 3, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Department of the Interior “reaffirm[ed] their commitment to working together and with stakeholders to protect endangered species, provide effective pest control tools, and regulate pesticide use in a fair, transparent, and predictable manner.” According to EPA’s November 3, 2021, press release, on October 15, 2021, all five agencies met as part of the Interagency Working Group (IWG) created under the 2018 Farm Bill to discuss improvements to the consultation process for pesticide registration and registration review under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). EPA states that the group’s first meeting resulted in specific commitments to improve the pesticide consultation process for endangered species and engaging stakeholders, including by capitalizing on the strong interest among stakeholders for a workable process.
According to the press release, the IWG is optimistic about its ability to collaborate on improvements that the Biden Administration can implement. The IWG’s actions focused on improving processes that will contribute to tangible benefits for species conservation and for stakeholders. EPA states that the IWG “is intent to adopt improvements expeditiously and that endure across administrations.” To guide its future work, the IWG has identified the following initial priorities and approaches:
EPA states that “[e]ffective endangered species protection cannot be accomplished solely by federal agencies,” but also requires “open and continuous engagement with stakeholders on practical solutions to harmonizing species conservation with pesticide use.” To that end, the IWG plans to hold its first stakeholder listening session in early 2022 and will provide details on the proposed session before the end of 2021.
EPA Announces Revisions to Guidance to Ensure Effectiveness of Antimicrobial Pesticides against Candida auris
On October 15, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has revised its guidance for evaluating the efficacy of antimicrobial pesticides against Candida auris (C. auris). EPA states that pesticide manufacturers seeking to register their products with a C. auris claim should use this updated guidance to test the effectiveness of the products against a drug-resistant strain of C. auris.
EPA states that C. auris is an emerging, multidrug-resistant yeast (a type of fungus). It can cause serious infections and spreads easily among hospitalized patients and nursing home residents. C. auris can spread in healthcare settings through contact with contaminated environmental surfaces or equipment, or from person to person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in three patients with an invasive (e.g., affecting the blood, heart, or brain) C. auris infection die.
In 2017, in consultation with the CDC, EPA issued interim guidance for testing the effectiveness of hospital disinfectants against C. auris. Subsequently, based on input from the CDC on its tracking of clinical cases of multi-drug resistant C. auris isolates in the United States, the laboratory data were generated to ensure antimicrobial efficacy against a more relevant strain of the pathogen.
Working closely with experts from the CDC, EPA conducted a comparative evaluation of isolates and found that the drug-resistant isolates were more tolerant to some disinfectant treatments. Since a drug-resistant isolate (AR Bank #0385) is highly relevant to current outbreaks in the United States, it is considered a suitable test microbe for regulatory purposes.
The guidance provides recommendations for laboratory methodology on how to:
Under the updated guidance, all new products seeking registration with claims against C. auris should test for efficacy using the more relevant strain (AR Bank #0385). Efficacy testing using AR Bank #0381 is acceptable in some cases where the study initiation date is between October 15, 2020, and October 15, 2021. For study initiation dates between October 15, 2020, and October 15, 2021, EPA will accept studies conducted with isolate AR Bank #0381 for products whose active ingredients are either sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide plus acetic acid. For products with other active ingredients, it will be necessary to retest using isolate AR Bank #0385.
Existing antimicrobial products with C. auris claims based on the previous strain (AR Bank #0381) will be allowed to retain their claim of effectiveness against C. auris. To claim effectiveness against drug-resistant C. auris, EPA requires retesting with the more relevant strain (AR Bank #0385) identified in the updated guidance and according to the revised test method.
FDA Announces Withdrawal of Temporary Guidance Documents Concerning Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a Federal Register notice on October 13, 2021, announcing the withdrawal of three guidance documents: “Temporary Policy for Preparation of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency (COVID-19)”; “Policy for Temporary Compounding of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency”; and “Temporary Policy for Manufacture of Alcohol for Incorporation Into Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency (COVID-19).” 86 Fed. Reg. 56960. According to the notice, FDA is withdrawing the guidance documents “because current data indicate that consumers and healthcare personnel are no longer experiencing difficulties accessing alcohol-based hand sanitizer products, and these temporary policies are no longer needed to help meet demand for alcohol-based hand sanitizer products or for alcohol for use in alcohol-based hand sanitizer.” The withdrawal date for the guidance documents is December 31, 2021. The notice states that firms manufacturing alcohol under the temporary policies for use in alcohol-based hand sanitizers and firms preparing alcohol-based hand sanitizers under the temporary policies must cease production of these products by December 31, 2021. Firms must cease, by March 31, 2022, distribution of any remaining hand sanitizer products that were prepared under the temporary policies before or on December 31, 2021. After March 31, 2022, FDA states that it intends to cease its temporary policy of not taking action with regard to distribution of hand sanitizers, or alcohol for use in alcohol-based hand sanitizers, prepared consistent with the circumstances described in the guidance documents.
The withdrawal of these documents is not unexpected. FDA issued the documents in March 2020 to provide regulatory flexibility to certain firms to help meet the demand for alcohol-based hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). FDA states that it has determined that the demand for alcohol-based hand sanitizer has decreased and the supply of hand sanitizer from traditional manufacturers (i.e., firms other than those that entered into the over-the-counter drug industry for the first time to supply hand sanitizers during the PHE) has increased. FDA notes that although the temporary policies are being withdrawn, firms may continue to manufacture alcohol-based hand sanitizer products without an approved application, provided they comply with the applicable tentative final monograph and other applicable requirements, including current good manufacturing practice requirements under Section 501(a)(2)(B) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. FDA reminds distributors, re-packagers, and importers that they are also responsible for the safety and quality of the drugs they introduce into interstate commerce. Firms that registered and submitted drug product listing(s) for hand sanitizer(s) only but no longer manufacture such product, or plan to cease manufacturing such product, can deregister and delist their hand sanitizer product listing(s) by following the Electronic Drug Registration and Listing Instructions.
On October 7, 2021, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan announced the appointment of Rod Snyder to become EPA’s Agriculture Advisor. Snyder will lead outreach and engagement efforts with the agricultural community for EPA.
Snyder is nationally recognized for his leadership at the intersection of agricultural and environmental policy, and joins EPA after serving as president of Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, the largest multi-stakeholder initiative working to advance the sustainability of commodity crop farming in the United States. In that role, he forged science-based consensus among stakeholders across the food and agriculture value chain on issues such as climate change, water quality, biodiversity, and pest management.
Prior to his time at Field to Market, Snyder worked for the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. He previously organized farmer delegations to participate in UN Climate Summits in Paris and Copenhagen. In 2015, Snyder co-founded the Sustainable Agriculture Summit, which has grown to be the largest and most prominent annual sustainable agriculture conference in North America. Snyder holds a B.A. in Political Science from Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania.
This position is important in the Office of the EPA Administrator. It allows stakeholders interested in issues that affect agriculture or agricultural policies a central contact point within the Administrator’s office. EPA in all program areas has a large number of interested stakeholders, but agricultural groups may be less likely to focus on EPA activities across all of the EPA media programs. This position facilitates outreach to agricultural stakeholders who might otherwise not realize they may have an interest in certain EPA policies (example, hazardous waste), in addition to those issues with a more obvious impact on agriculture (renewable fuel policies, pesticides, non-point pollution). Given the Biden Administration emphasis on addressing climate change, agricultural interests are expected to play a role in advocating “climate positive” agriculture policies, and could be affected by EPA’s climate initiatives.
The Agriculture Advisor position has potential to provide EPA leadership with input from stakeholders who otherwise may not typically focus on EPA activities. The impact of such input on EPA subsequent actions varies widely across different Administrations. Some Administrations leave the position vacant altogether. Outside groups will be interested in how influential this office will be for the current Administration.
EPA Region 2 Settles with Reckitt Benckiser on Violations Related to Sales of Mislabeled Rodenticides
On October 7, 2021, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 announced a settlement with Reckitt Benckiser, LLC (Reckitt Benckiser) regarding alleged violations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The specific alleged violations relate to 239 sales and distributions of two rodenticide products in the United States that EPA asserts had misleading advertising claims on the packaging. Reckitt Benckiser has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $458,000 under the settlement to resolve these violations.
Reckitt Benckiser is a supplemental distributor of two rodenticide products that are bait stations registered under FIFRA to kill mice. EPA states that in 2019, it conducted inspections of a Home Depot in South Plainfield, New Jersey, and Reckitt Benckiser’s offices in Parsippany, New Jersey. EPA thereafter determined that Reckitt Benckiser was selling these two rodenticide products in packaging or labeling that made comparative claims as to the effectiveness of the product. Specifically, the packaging stated that the products were “10x Tastier Than Lead Competitor.” The labels EPA approved for the two products did not contain this comparative claim language, and at the time of registration, data associated with the products’ claims were never provided. EPA’s regulations at 40 C.F.R. Section 156.10(a)(5)(iv) provide that statements or representations in the labeling which constitute misbranding include a “false or misleading comparison with other pesticides or devices.” EPA states that because "the comparative claims were not subject to verification, they were ‘false and misleading comparisons’ prohibited under [FIFRA].”
This case serves as another reminder to registrants and supplemental distributors to review all labeling and advertising claims to ensure conformity with EPA-approved labels and avoidance of claims that EPA identifies as false or misleading.
On September 29, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced developments in its efforts to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment. In particular, EPA provided an update on its progress in testing pesticide products and containers for PFAS.
EPA states that as part of its ongoing efforts, it is releasing an internally validated method for the detection of 28 PFAS compounds in oily matrices, such as pesticide products formulated in oil, petroleum distillates, or mineral oils. According to EPA, the oily matrix method is modified from EPA Method 537.1, a method that is mainly used for drinking water and was previously used in analyzing PFAS in fluorinated high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers.
The new method is intended to assist pesticide manufacturers, state regulators, and other interested stakeholders in testing oily matrix products for PFAS and joining efforts to detect any possible contamination. In the announcement, EPA states: “In a shared interest to remove PFAS from the environment, if companies find PFAS in their product, EPA is requesting that they engage in good product stewardship and notify the Agency.”
In developing this method, EPA collaborated with the Maryland Department of Agriculture. As part of this collaboration, the method was used to analyze three stored samples of mosquito control pesticide products as well as samples obtained directly from the product line from the pesticide manufacturer. EPA determined that none of the tested samples contained PFAS at or above EPA’s method limit of detection.
EPA states that its investigation continues to determine the scope of this issue and its potential impact on human health and the environment. EPA acknowledges that “[t]o date, the only PFAS contamination in mosquito control pesticide products that the Agency has identified originated from fluorinated HDPE containers used to store and transport a different mosquito control pesticide product.” EPA will continue to test additional fluorinated containers to determine whether they contain and/or leach PFAS and will present those results when the studies are complete. EPA further states it is working with other federal agencies and trade organizations to raise awareness of this issue and discuss expectations of product stewardship. EPA also is encouraging the pesticide industry to explore alternative packaging options, such as steel drums or non-fluorinated HDPE.
Additional information on EPA’s oily matrix method report and information on PFAS in pesticide packaging is available here.
The First International Conference on Agricultural Law was held jointly by the Agricultural Law Section of the International Bar Association (IBA), Project Pravo-Justice, and the Ukrainian Bar Association (UBA) on September, 23-24, 2021. This conference provided a unique review of current legal issues in agriculture, with leading European and Ukrainian experts sharing their experience on
A complimentary recording of this informative event is now available to stream. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is pleased to share this valuable resource with clients and friends. B&C Managing Partner Lynn L. Bergeson is the Senior Vice Chair of the IBA’s Agricultural Law Section.
On September 15, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is terminating the Temporary Amendment to Pesticide Registration (PR) Notice 98-10, effective September 15, 2022. EPA states that it is providing 12 months’ notice to registrants before the termination takes effect to give registrants time to adjust their contractual commitments. Registrants must ensure that by September 15, 2022, their product is produced using a source of active ingredient identified in the product’s EPA-approved Confidential Statement of Formula (CSF) or otherwise complies with the requirements of PR Notice 98-10. All notifications submitted to EPA under the temporary process are valid only for the time period of the temporary amendment. After September 15, 2022, registrants “will not be able to release for shipment formulations produced under the conditions of the temporary amendment without first complying with the registration requirements that were in place prior to the issuance of the temporary amendments.”
EPA states that this notice applies to products on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) or products that serve as the source of active ingredient for disinfectants on EPA’s List N. This notice also applies to food contact surface sanitizer products containing the active ingredient isopropyl alcohol that are used in the essential role of food manufacturer and preparation.
In 2020, EPA issued temporary amendments to PR Notice 98-10 to ensure that antimicrobial products remained available in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. According to EPA, supply chains have stabilized and disinfectant products expected to kill SARS-CoV-2 have become consistently available to consumers, so it has determined that this flexibility is no longer needed. When the temporary amendment was issued, EPA stated it would assess the continued need for and scope of the temporary amendment to PR Notice 98-10 on a regular basis and would update it if EPA determined modifications were necessary. EPA stated it would post a notification at www.epa.gov/pesticides at least seven days prior to terminating the temporary amendment. EPA acknowledges in the termination memorandum that registrants require time to make the temporary changes permanent through CSF amendment or notification and therefore is providing 12 months, rather than the seven days guaranteed in the temporary amendment.
In early July 1996, I was returning on a flight from Amman, Jordan, wondering what kind of negotiation we in the Clinton Administration faced in completing the legislative text of what became the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). (I had been asked to go to Jordan to visit the Jordanian pesticide regulatory program by a friend who was a senior official at the State Department. The result of my visit may have played a very, very small role in the Middle East peace process -- but that is another story for another time).
Some weeks earlier, I had been approached by Congressional staff members whom I knew from my previous job at the Congressional Research Service (CRS) as the subject area expert on the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and pesticide regulation. I joined the Clinton Administration as a political deputy in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances (OPPTS, now renamed as the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP)). Dr. Lynn Goldman was the Assistant Administrator who had recruited me to join the efforts to reform, that is, modernize, the Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Over the years since it was enacted in 1958, risk assessment methods and our understanding of possible cancer risks had changed greatly.
Setting the Context
In 1989, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report on “The Delaney Paradox,” examining how the Delaney Clause ironically prevented safer new pesticides from entering the market. After an important court decision (Les v. Riley), EPA was told that even if it was undesirable public policy, the law can only be changed by Congress. As EPA went along with its work, many feared that numerous pesticides might be forced off the market even if, using modern evaluation policies, they presented little risk or were in fact safer than the alternatives.
During this time, advocacy groups were concerned that the then-current law was not protective enough of the possible risks to children’s diets. A simple way to say this is, for purposes of risk assessment: “Children are not little adults,” and supporters emphasized that dietary risk assessments by EPA should pay special attention to possible children’s risk given differences in metabolism, growth stages, and other important physiological characteristics.
This led to another National Academy of Sciences report in 1994 on “Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children,” which recommended that pesticide regulation include particular attention and possibly greater regulation of estimated dietary risks from pesticides. Given that the new Assistant Administrator of OPPTS was Dr. Lynn Goldman, a pediatrician, this concern was a priority for the Clinton Administration.
“The Gingrich Revolution”
A less noticed irony, but also important to the history of FQPA, is the change in party control of the House of Representatives, led by Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and the “Contract with America” during the 1994 elections. Unexpectedly, the Republicans had the majority in the House for the first time in 40 years, and they elected Representative Gingrich Speaker of the House.
Much longer stories have been and will be written, but shortly after taking power in the House in January 1995, the Republicans were viewed as letting lobbyists run amok -- even suggesting amendments to environmental laws while lobbyists were sitting on the dais of Committee meetings. By the end of 1995 and going into an election year in 1996, “word was” the leadership, at least on the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- chaired by Representative Thomas Bliley (R-VA) -- was looking for a “green vote” to offset the image of an anti-environment House majority. Led by staff from the office of Chair Bliley and Representative John Dingell (D-MI), who was the senior Democrat on the Committee, a draft of a compromise bill was floated and made its way to my office at EPA.
Meantime, during the previous Congress (103rd Congress, 1993 - 1994), a team of EPA staff, led by Jim Jones (a later even more famous name in EPA pesticide regulation) of the Assistant Administrator’s office, along with staff from the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and the Office of General Counsel (OGC), and staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (it takes a village), had developed a Clinton Administration bill that did not gather much support during 1994. The legislation did have the core concepts of “fixing Delaney” and including the “reasonable certainty of no harm” standard, and it incorporated strong protections about possible risks from residues in the diets of infants and children.
In the new Congress (the 104th), there was some action during 1995 in the House Agriculture Committee on FIFRA issues related to antimicrobial products, minor uses of pesticides, and ways to prod the registration process to become more predictable and timely (this was before the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA)). The FIFRA amendments were not viewed as controversial and were successfully discussed between both sides of the aisle (the Agriculture Committees were much more bipartisan in those days). By itself, that package was not likely to make it through the legislative gauntlet, given the shift in political power on the Hill.
Also in 1995, Carol Browner (the EPA Administrator) cautioned us that successful bipartisan legislation was unlikely, so not much effort should be invested, given other priorities.
The key event came in the late spring of 1996, when we first saw a draft of the legislation floated by the staff of Representatives Bliley and Dingell. It was far from perfect, but it included the core elements of what the Administration had proposed in the previous Congress. Since that earlier bill had been drafted with the coordination of EPA, FDA, and USDA, if it had the essential ingredients, we thought it might be a viable vehicle for further discussion. We also sought comment from some of the influential environmental groups that had been disappointed in the Administration’s legislation in the previous Congress. Suffice it to say, inclusion of the core elements of a tough standard (reasonable certainty of no harm) and special protections regarding children’s diets made the proposals a “possible” vehicle for further discussion.
We also started to have discussions with the staff of Representative Waxman (D-CA) in the House and Senator Kennedy (D-MA). Representative Waxman was the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, and Senator Kennedy was the ranking Democrat on the Labor Committee, which had jurisdiction over the FFDCA.
Back to July 1996
To shorten the story, we had intense, long meetings with the various interested parties -- pesticide registrants; environmental groups; trade associations; agency staff at EPA, FDA, and USDA; Congressional staff from the authorizing Committees; and Administration leaders within the agencies and the White House. In an amazingly short time, we came to agreement over the text, which is now FQPA. Representatives Waxman and Roberts (R-KS -- Chair of the House Agriculture Committee) held a press event about the historic compromise -- even more historic since the two Representatives rarely agreed on significant legislation. Their joint endorsement and statement of support signaled to members of both parties on both sides of Capitol Hill that this was an unusual, and important, compromise. The Congressional staff then recognized the next hurdle: the August recess was approaching fast, and if not enacted into law by then, the delay could be fatal, or at least make matters more complicated, as the multitude of interest groups would likely pick apart and want further changes to the agreement that had been reached. So the rush was on to get the “green vote” to the floor of the House and Senate.
Some last-moment hiccups took a little more time. Senator Lugar (R-IN), the Senate Agriculture Committee Chair, wanted a hearing to at least review the legislation. This was not a huge hurdle, but finding time on the floor was a race against the clock before the August recess. The House was the first to vote on July 23, 1996. The bill was approved with a surprising unanimous roll call vote in the majority Republican House (the vote was 417-0 with 16 not voting). Unanimous bipartisan support! -- imagine that in today’s world.
Then, with a sprinkling of clarifying (that is, reassuring) pieces of correspondence, the Senate agreed to the House legislation under unanimous consent. (In fact, for any trivia nuts out there, if you watch the C-SPAN video of how long the Senate deliberation lasted at the end of the day on July 24, 1996 -- the request for unanimous consent and agreement clocks in under 30 seconds.)
So with unanimous support in both the House and the Senate, FQPA was approved.
One Last Step
One very important last step was needed before FQPA became law -- the President needed to sign the legislation. That happened at the White House when H.R. 1627 was signed by President Clinton on August 3, 1996.
On August 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its release of a draft guide detailing the information requirements and process for submitting a Regulatory Status Review (RSR) request. Developers of certain genetically modified organisms may use the RSR process to determine the regulatory status of the organisms. The draft guide is open for public comment for 60 days. APHIS also will host a webinar to provide an overview of the draft RSR guide.
On May 18, 2020, APHIS published revised biotechnology regulations, codified in 7 C.F.R. Part 340 and referred to as the Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule. For a discussion of the SECURE rule, please review Final SECURE Rule Will Update and Modernize USDA's Biotechnology Regulations. The revised regulations identify high-level information requirements for submissions to support RSR requests. In response to comments on the proposed SECURE rule, APHIS stated that it would publish detailed information requirements as a draft guide for public comment prior to issuing the draft guide in final.
The draft RSR guide is available on the APHIS website, at the bottom of the tab labeled The Regulatory Status Review Process, and also in the online docket. The public may submit comments at https://www.regulations.gov/docket/APHIS-2021-0062. APHIS states that it will consider all comments received by October 25, 2021, prior to issuing the final RSR guide. Additionally, APHIS will host a technical webinar on September 21, 2021, to discuss the RSR process and guide, and provide stakeholders the opportunity to ask questions. Registration is available now on the APHIS website.
APHIS is authorized by the Plant Protection Act to evaluate potential plant pest risks resulting from certain organisms developed using genetic engineering techniques. Prior to the SECURE rule, developers of genetically modified plants could petition APHIS to seek a determination that a modified plant is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk and therefore is no longer subject to APHIS’ biotechnology regulations. With the SECURE rule, APHIS made several changes to its procedures, including introduction of the RSR process. The RSR process was implemented for select crops on April 5, 2021, and will be fully implemented for all crops on October 1, 2021.
Developers must submit a significant amount of technical information to APHIS to support a determination that a genetically modified plant can be deregulated. It typically is welcome news when regulators clarify the information that they need to make a regulatory determination, particularly given the time and resources invested in a new technology. A clear regulatory process, including information requirements and review timelines, allows industry to plan accordingly. The APHIS draft guide addresses information requirements, the review process, decision timelines, confidential business information justifications, and key definitions, and provides an optional submission template. It appears to be a useful tool in planning an RSR submission. We urge developers of genetically modified plants to review the guide carefully. If, following review, there are issues that require additional clarification, developers should highlight those issues in comments submitted to the docket linked above.
EPA Announces Penalty Issued against Southern California Company for Selling Illegal Antimicrobial Products
On August 25, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it issued a penalty against Seychelle Environmental Technologies, Inc. (Seychelle), based in Aliso Viejo, California, for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The violations, which EPA states that Seychelle has since corrected, involved the sale of unregistered antimicrobial products and the manufacture of products in an unregistered establishment.
According to EPA, in 2017 and 2018, Seychelle sold a collection of related water filtration products known as the “Seychelle Standard Filter” and the “Seychelle Advanced Filter.” EPA states that these Seychelle filter products made “numerous” antimicrobial claims, and thus under FIFRA, EPA considered these products to be pesticides that must be registered with EPA. Additionally, under FIFRA, pesticide manufacturers must register their facilities with EPA as establishments and annually report their pesticide production. Since Seychelle’s water filter products were not produced in an EPA-registered establishment, EPA determined there was another FIFRA violation. Based on the sale or distribution of an unregistered pesticide and the unregistered establishment, EPA assessed a penalty to Seychelle in the amount of $150,000 (USD).
On August 18, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food. In the pre-publication of the Federal Register notice released on August 19, 2021, EPA revoked all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos, which establish an amount of a pesticide that is allowed on food. In addition, EPA states that it will issue a Notice of Intent to Cancel under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to cancel registered food uses of chlorpyrifos associated with the revoked tolerances. EPA has stated the cancellation order will follow in approximately six months after the tolerance revocations.
EPA’s announcement responds to the Ninth Circuit’s order, issued on April 29, 2021, that vacated EPA orders issued in 2017 and 2019 denying a 2007 petition filed by Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council. That petition requested that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances, or the maximum allowed residue levels in food, because those tolerances were not safe, in part due to the potential for neurodevelopmental effects in children. The 2017 and 2019 orders denying the 2007 petition were challenged in the Ninth Circuit by a coalition of farmworker, health, environmental, and other groups.
In its order, the Ninth Circuit found that “...EPA had abdicated its statutory duty under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) ...” to “conclude, to the statutorily required standard of reasonable certainty, that the present tolerances caused no harm.” After vacating the 2017 and 2019 orders, the court remanded the matter to EPA with instructions to: “(1) grant the 2007 Petition; (2) issue a final regulation within 60 days following issuance of the mandate that either (a) revokes all chlorpyrifos tolerances or (b) modifies chlorpyrifos tolerances and simultaneously certifies that, with the tolerances so modified, the EPA ‘has determined that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemical residue, including all anticipated dietary exposures and all other exposures for which there is reliable information,’ including for ‘infants and children’; and (3) modify or cancel related FIFRA registrations for food use in a timely fashion consistent with the requirements of 21 U.S.C. § 346a(a)(1).”
In its announcement, EPA states that it has determined that the current aggregate exposures from the use of chlorpyrifos do not meet the legally required safety standard that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from such exposures. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used for a large variety of agricultural uses and has been continually reviewed with regard to potential adverse effects, including possible neurological effects in children, which has been the subject of considerable controversy for many years. EPA’s announcement notes that a number of other countries, including the European Union and Canada, and some states, including California, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, and Oregon, have taken similar action to restrict the use of this pesticide on food.
EPA states its action also will be incorporated into the ongoing registration review for chlorpyrifos. EPA is continuing to review the comments submitted on the chlorpyrifos proposed interim decision, draft revised human health risk assessment, and draft ecological risk assessment. These documents are available in the chlorpyrifos registration review docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850 at www.regulations.gov and a discussion of these issues is available on our blog here.
After considering public comments, EPA will proceed with its registration review of the remaining non-food uses of chlorpyrifos by issuing the interim decision, which may consider additional measures to reduce human health and ecological risks.
Separate from any issues of science, evidence, or interpretation, the FFDCA’s channels of trade provision is designed to address what happens if EPA cancels a pesticide product for not meeting Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) standards and then revokes the tolerance. EPA’s initial description of its decision was unclear on this important point regarding the status of food already in the channels of trade that may contain chlorpyrifos residues.
EPA statements at an August 18, 2021, phone briefing with agricultural stakeholders appeared to present a position that the tolerance revocations would be in effect immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. This implied that there may be an immediate revocation of the tolerances before any parallel action to cancel the associated pesticide registrations. The pre-publication version of the notice clarified that the revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances would not become effective until six months after the publication of the notice in the Federal Register. As of August 24, 2021, the notice has not been published in the Federal Register.
This revocation delay of six months aligns with the statement also made by EPA to cancel the registration of chlorpyrifos food use products six months after the revocation notice. EPA may face questions from some of the groups that have been advocating for this type of EPA action concerning why, if these tolerances need to be revoked, the use of the pesticide will continue in effect for the remainder of this growing season. Ed Messina, Office Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs, made a glancing reference to this at the phone conference when he stated EPA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are “having discussions.”
According to EPA, use of chlorpyrifos has been in decline due to restrictions at the state level and reduced production. EPA also notes that some alternatives have been registered in recent years for most crops, other chemistries and insect growth regulators are available for certain target pests, and that EPA is committed to reviewing replacements for and alternatives to chlorpyrifos. Some growers, however, are using registered chlorpyrifos products on food crops and hoped to be able to continue certain uses.
EPA states in the pre-publication notice that some uses in certain areas appear to be able to meet the FQPA standard as evaluated in its 2016 and 2020 risk assessment documents, even if including the full 10x FQPA “extra” safety factor (these assessments are the reference documents EPA cites in its revocation notice). EPA further states that the Ninth Circuit’s order did not provide EPA with time to consider further changes to the use patterns or label restrictions to align with such changes hinted at in the revocation notice, and so EPA is issuing the revocation decision now. This begs the question of whether EPA might consider some continued uses in the future, although even considering any “new” tolerance would be very controversial.
In addition, none of the current actions affect (for now) the tolerances for stored grains using the sister chemical (chlorpyrifos-methyl) with a similar toxicological profile. There also are non-food use applications of chlorpyrifos, for example, mosquito control application of chlorpyrifos sprayed over a large area, that are not affected by the tolerance revocation.
This mix of messages may not be easy to explain to users and the consuming public.
Issues regarding the timing of the revocations and continued uses are also likely to present challenges for FDA. For example, there are various blended commodities (e.g., animal feed grain, possibly co-mingling harvests from different times) where FDA may be unable to determine what part of any enforcement sample came from a particular date of use.
The orderly transition for treated commodities was designed to avoid public and grower confusion that characterized the episodes of StarLink corn chaos in 2000 or the Cheerios contamination incident in 1994 involving a reported over 100 million boxes of cereal that were eventually destroyed. EPA cites international trade obligations as another reason for the coordinated actions effective in six months to notify foreign trading partners with a “reasonable interval” for adjusting to a changed regulatory situation.
Additional information on chlorpyrifos is available on our blog.
On August 17, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is now accepting official Foreign Purchaser Acknowledgement Statements (FPAS) and FPAS annual summaries through the Central Data Exchange Pesticide Submission Portal (CDX PSP). EPA states this improved process allows for pesticide exporters to submit an FPAS electronically rather than physically mailing them, providing a key flexibility during the COVID-19 public health emergency. According to the Federal Register notice, an FPAS may be submitted using CDX PSP as of August 18, 2021. 86 Fed. Reg. 46246.
Pesticides intended solely for export from the U.S. to a foreign country are not required to be registered in the U.S., but exporters must submit an FPAS to EPA to comply with requirements under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 17(a)(2). An FPAS includes critical information about the pesticide intended for export, which EPA uses to notify the Designated National Authority of the importing country.
Exporters have two options for complying with FIFRA Section 17(a) and 40 C.F.R. Section 168.75 through submission of an FPAS to EPA: per-shipment reporting and annual reporting.
Per-Shipment Reporting: To comply with requirements for per-shipment reporting, the exporter must provide EPA with the signed purchaser acknowledgement statement and the accompanying certification for each export within seven working days of the exporter’s receipt of the signed statement or by the date of export (whichever occurs first). The exporter must continue to submit this documentation prior to each shipment.
Annual Reporting: The exporter must submit a signed per-shipment purchaser acknowledgement statement for the first shipment each calendar year of an unregistered pesticide product to a particular purchaser and an annual summary of shipments to that purchaser. This FPAS should indicate that the exporter is choosing to provide an annual summary and certifying that the shipment in the FPAS was the first of the calendar year. When using the annual reporting option, the exporter is required to submit an annual report for each unregistered pesticide exported within the preceding calendar year. The exporter must submit the annual summary no later than March 1 of the following calendar year.
The annual summary report must be in writing, signed by the exporter, and include the following information:
Information on the required contents of FPAS about submitting statements electronically is available here.