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.
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By Heather F. Collins, M.S. and Barbara A. Christianson

On February 12, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of 11 products that have been approved for use to disinfect surfaces against the emerging multidrug-resistant fungus Candida auris (C. auris).  C. auris can cause severe infections and spreads easily among hospitalized patients and nursing home residents.  The 11 products are approved for use against C. auris to disinfect surfaces in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities, to help reduce patient infections.  There were no antimicrobial pesticide products registered specifically for use against C. auris prior these new use registrations.

EPA worked in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners to ensure that the products would be effective against C. auris.  Previously, on October 16, 2019, EPA had granted public health exemptions under the provisions of section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) as amended, to the CDC, for uses of antimicrobial products, on hard, nonporous surfaces in healthcare settings for disinfection from C. auris.

The 11 products that are now registered for use against C. auris are:

  •  Avert Sporicidal Disinfectant Cleaner (EPA Reg. No. 70627-72);
  •  Blondie (EPA Reg. No. 67619-24);
  •  Dagwood (EPA Reg. No. 67619-25);
  •  Micro-Kill Bleach Germicidal Bleach Wipes (EPA Reg. No. 37549-1);
  •  Oxivir 1 (EPA Reg. No. 70627-74);
  •  Oxivir 1 Wipes (EPA Reg. No. 70627-77);
  •  Oxivir Wipes (EPA Reg. No. 70627-60);
  •  Oxycide™ Daily Disinfectant Cleaner (EPA Reg. No. 1677-237);
  •  Virasept (EPA Reg. No. 1677-226);
  • Wonder Woman Formula B Germicidal Wipes (EPA Reg. No. 9480-12); and
  •  Wonder Woman Formula B Spray (EPA Reg. No. 9480-10).

Because there are few products with C. auris claims at this time, CDC and EPA have identified additional products that are effective against C. auris. Although these products do not yet have formal EPA-registered claims for C. auris, testing at CDC has confirmed they are effective against C. auris.  The label on the product will not include instructions for C. auris.  CDC guidance states to “follow the instructions provided for C. albicans, if included, or else follow those for fungicidal activity.” These products include:

  •  Oxivir TB Spray (EPA Reg. No. 70627-56); and
  •  PDI Super Sani-Cloth (EPA Reg. No. 9480-4).

The CDC Guidance further states that, if none of the above-listed products are available, or any of the EPA-registered products that are newly approved for the specific claims against C. auris, CDC recommends use of an EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectant effective against Clostridioides difficile spores, because CDC believes these products have been used effectively against C. auris (List K).

 Additional information on C. auris is available on EPA’s website and CDC’s website.


 
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By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and James V. Aidala

On February 6, 2020, Corteva Agriscience (Corteva), announced it will discontinue all production of the organophosphate (OP) insecticide chlorpyrifos by the end of the year.  Corteva and its corporate predecessor, Dow AgroSciences, have been the principal global manufacturers of chlorpyrifos.  Corteva announced that its decision to stop selling chlorpyrifos was based entirely on financial considerations.  This announcement came on the same day that Corteva had previously agreed it would end further sales of chlorpyrifos in California, and less than a week after the date the European Union (EU) ended all sales of chlorpyrifos in member states.  These actions followed a number of prior actions taken by other national and state governments to ban or severely restrict chlorpyrifos.  Corteva emphasized in its public statements that the science demonstrates that chlorpyrifos can be safely used, but that the company made a business decision based on the declining markets for the product.  In an interview reported by the Washington Post, Susanne Wasson, Corteva's President for Crop Protection said, “It’s a tough decision for us to make, but we don’t feel like it’s viable going forward.” In other statements, Corteva noted that in the last ten years their share of the global chlorpyrifos market had declined from 75% to less than 20%.

Chlorpyrifos has been registered for use in the U.S. for over 50 years, but has become increasingly controversial in the dozen years since the Pesticide Action Network of North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition in 2007 to cancel all registrations and revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos.  Following a protracted court battle and a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take final administrative action concerning the 2007 petition, EPA proposed near the end of the Obama Administration to revoke all existing tolerances for chlorpyrifos.  A significant basis for this proposal was a controversial decision by a panel of EPA scientists that the default tenfold safety factor established by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) for infants and children, which EPA had previously waived based on studies establishing a threshold for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition, should be reinstated.

The new EPA safety factor determination was based in large measure on epidemiology studies that reported an association between exposure to chlorpyrifos at levels below the presumed threshold for AChE inhibition and adverse neurodevelopmental effects in children.  Many industry scientists disputed the scientific basis for this EPA determination because confounding exposures and methodological biases in the epidemiology studies may have influenced the reported association with neurodevelopmental effects and because the EPA determination made unprecedented use of epidemiology data.  Beyond the effect on chlorpyrifos, the EPA decision will likely continue to be controversial because EPA included a similar safety factor determination for all OP pesticides, even though the mechanism responsible for the reported neurodevelopmental effects attributed to chlorpyrifos has not been identified and the other OP products were not studied in the epidemiology studies.

In the first year of the Trump Administration, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided not to adopt EPA’s previously proposed tolerance revocation and instead to deny formally the 2007 petition, citing unresolved scientific issues.  This reversal of course, however, was not accompanied by any new scientific assessment or by any explicit revision of the prior FQPA safety factor determination.  Later, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) decided to designate chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant, a decision that was noteworthy because it was based primarily on new toxicology studies that DPR stated reported neurodevelopmental effects well below the threshold for AChE inhibition.  DPR deemphasized the epidemiology data relied on in the EPA safety factor determination in its decision.  Although EPA later stated that it would address these new toxicology studies as part of an accelerated registration review process, there were intervening decisions by the EU and by California to ban new sales, which may have contributed to Corteva’s February 6, 2020, decision to cease chlorpyrifos production.

Commentary

The decision by Corteva to cease manufacturing chlorpyrifos reminds us that the decision to continue marketing any chemical substance cannot be based solely on the scientific data, but must also consider the regulatory climate and the economic viability of the product.  For those of us with a long memory, the decision by Corteva is reminiscent of the decision nearly 40 years ago by the Dow Chemical Company to pull the plug on 2,4,5-T and silvex, after Dow had expended millions of dollars and many years of effort to contest an emergency suspension and subsequent cancellation of these herbicides.  Dow made this decision even though it believed that the available data demonstrated the safety of those products.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on February 12, 2020, that it is seeking public input on a proposal to incorporate a new nanosilver pesticide product into textiles to combat odors, discoloration, and other signs of wear.  The proposed registration decision is for NSPW Nanosilver, and the proposed pesticide product, Polyguard-NSPW Master Batch (Polyguard), will be incorporated into textiles to suppress bacteria, algae, fungus, mold, and mildew, which cause odors, discoloration, stains, and deterioration.  According to EPA, based on its human health and ecological risk assessment, it has preliminarily determined that the new active ingredient in Polyguard meets the regulatory standard under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for use as a materials preservative in textiles.  EPA invites public comment on its proposal and preliminary findings.  Comments are due March 13, 2020.  More information is available in Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2020-0043

EPA notes that NSPW Nanosilver was the active ingredient in a previous conditional registration that it granted in 2015, for use as a materials preservative in textiles and plastics.  As reported in our May 31, 2017, memorandum, that decision was challenged, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit “vacated it on grounds that EPA’s public interest finding for granting the registration was without support in the record.”  EPA states that the currently proposed product “is solely for use in specified textiles; therefore, Polyguard will have a more limited use authorization than the previously vacated conditional registration.”  EPA notes that Polyguard will be formulated as a master batch, meaning that NSPW Nanosilver would be embedded within plastic beads or pellets, in contrast to the previous product registration, which was in the form of a liquid suspension.


 
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By Kelly N. Garson and Carla N. Hutton

On January 27, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a notification for Project Number OA&E-FY20-0095, announcing that it will begin fieldwork to audit EPA’s adherence to pesticide registration risk assessment regulations, policies, and procedures.  In a memorandum addressed to EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), OIG stated that its objective is to evaluate EPA’s ability to address human health and environmental risks prior to pesticide product registration.  OIG will conduct the audit from EPA headquarters.  According to the memorandum, the anticipated benefits of this audit include determining whether EPA has adequate controls to address human health and environmental risks prior to pesticide product registration.

OIG is an independent office created by the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended.  Though located within EPA, Congress funds OIG separately to ensure independence as it conducts activities such as audits and investigations to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of EPA’s operations and programs.  Following the audit, OIG will prepare a report that may include recommendations for corrective actions OCSPP should take based upon OIG’s findings.  More information on OIG’s previous reports and audit system is available on OIG’s website.  Recent OIG reports regarding the implementation of FIFRA include:


 
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By Timothy D. Backstrom

On February 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of an interim registration review decision for glyphosate.  EPA previously issued a proposed interim registration review decision (PID) for glyphosate for comment in April 2019.  At the time EPA issued the glyphosate PID for comment, EPA also issued a draft human health risk assessment and a preliminary ecological risk assessment for glyphosate.  After reviewing the comments received concerning these assessments, EPA has not made any revisions to either assessment.  EPA has determined that there are no dietary, residential, bystander, or occupational human health risks of concern associated with glyphosate use.   EPA has also determined that there are some potential risks to plants, birds, mammals, and invertebrates from glyphosate use, but that these can be appropriately mitigated by label changes requiring enforceable spray drift management measures and adding a warning concerning the potential hazards to non-target organisms.  EPA also has proposed some new measures to manage the development and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds.  EPA has generally retained the proposed labeling changes identified in the PID, except for some modest adjustments to the proposed language concerning droplet size restrictions and swath displacement restrictions for aerial applications, and removal of spray drift advisory language for airblast application.

Despite considerable publicity recently concerning purported carcinogenic risks for glyphosate, including allegations that human exposure to glyphosate can be linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, EPA has determined that glyphosate is not likely to be a human carcinogen and has steadfastly adhered to this basic conclusion.  EPA made this determination for glyphosate after convening a meeting of the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate in 2016.

The general purposes of the PID process are to allow EPA to move forward with aspects of the registration review process that are essentially complete, and to adopt interim risk mitigation measures, even though some of the actions required prior to a final registration review decision are not yet complete.  As in the case of most recent PIDs, EPA states that it has not yet made a complete determination concerning potential effects or any required consultation for glyphosate under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), nor has it made a determination for glyphosate under the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP).  In addition, EPA is considering a pending petition to prohibit preharvest use of glyphosate on oats, and to reduce the tolerance for glyphosate in oats, that was filed in 2018 by the Environmental Working Group and others.  This petition is predicated on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate.  Finally, EPA is still evaluating the question of whether additional data will be needed to evaluate properly the potential effects of glyphosate use on pollinators.  

More information on glyphosate and EPA’s interim registration review decision is available here.

Commentary

EPA's interim registration review decision for glyphosate is predicated on EPA's prior determination that the best available scientific data do not substantiate the claims that glyphosate may be a human carcinogen.  As discussed above, the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate was thoroughly evaluated by the FIFRA SAP in 2016.  EPA's determination after that review that glyphosate is not a carcinogen has also been supported by other pesticide regulatory authorities.  Nonetheless, EPA's view conflicts with a cancer classification decision for glyphosate by the World Health Organization (WHO), and with some recent tort case decisions that were based on the premise that there is a credible linkage between glyphosate exposure and human cancer.  EPA recently announced that it would not permit or approve any cancer warning statements for inclusion in glyphosate labeling (including any statements that may be required pursuant to California's Prop 65) because EPA believes that such statements are false or misleading and would therefore cause the pesticides to be "misbranded."

It appears probable there will be continued litigation based on the purported carcinogenicity of glyphosate, along with various proposals to ban or restrict glyphosate use.  The pending petition to restrict use of glyphosate on oats that was filed by EWG, et al., is expressly predicated on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate, so it appears probable that this petition will ultimately be denied by EPA.  Nonetheless, unless WHO decides to reverse or modify its classification determination, or the courts determine that the recent tort awards for glyphosate users cannot be scientifically substantiated, the battles over the claimed carcinogenicity of glyphosate may persist for years.

More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog under keyword glyphosate.


 
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By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and Barbara A. Christianson

On January 29, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has activated its Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides (Guidance) in response to the discovery of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses cause numerous illnesses, from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).  First identified in Wuhan, China, the 2019-nCoV coronavirus is a new strain that had not been previously seen in humans.

EPA developed its Guidance in 2016 to address emerging pathogens.  Under this Guidance, EPA provides pesticide registrants with a voluntary “two-stage process to enable use of certain EPA-registered disinfectant products against emerging viral pathogens not identified on the product label.”  These pathogens may not be identified on a label because the occurrence of emerging viral pathogens is less common and predictable than established pathogens and because the pathogens are often unavailable commercially and standard methods for laboratory testing may not exist.  EPA’s intent is for the Guidance to “expedite the process for registrants to provide useful information to the public” regarding products that may be effective against emerging viral pathogens associated with certain human or animal disease outbreaks.  Registrants with a pre-qualified emerging viral pathogen designation can include an efficacy statement in technical literature distributed to health care facilities, physicians, nurses, public health officials, non-label-related websites, consumer information services, and social media sites.  Additional information on the Guidance is available here and here.

EPA will likely work closely with registrants as they take steps to use these procedures to make claims related to coronavirus.  EPA notes that coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, meaning they are one of the easiest to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product, and thus using such products could help to limit the spread of these viruses.  Registrants that do not meet the criteria set forth in this Guidance yet make claims related to the coronavirus could face enforcement action for selling or distributing misbranded pesticides.  EPA states that it is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify and address 2019-nCoV in a timely manner and will continue to monitor developments closely.

Information on the coronavirus is available on CDC’s website.


 
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By Heather F. Collins, M.S.

The March 1, 2020, deadline for all establishments, foreign and domestic, that produce pesticides, devices, or active ingredients to file their annual production for the 2019 reporting year is fast approaching.  Pursuant to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 7 (7 U.S.C. § 136e), “any producer operating an establishment registered [under Section 7] shall inform the Administrator within 30 days after it is registered of the types and amounts of pesticides and, if applicable, active ingredients used in producing pesticides” and this information “shall be kept current and submitted to the Administrator annually as required.” 

Reports must be submitted on or before March 1 annually for the prior year’s production.  The report, filed through the submittal of EPA Form 3540-16:  Pesticide Report for Pesticide-Producing and Device-Producing Establishments, must include the name and address of the producing establishment; and pesticide production information such as product registration number, product name, and amounts produced and distributed.  The annual report is always required, even when no products are produced or distributed.

EPA has created the electronic reporting system to submit pesticide producing establishment reports using the Section Seven Tracking System (SSTS).  Users will be able to use SSTS within EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) to submit annual pesticide production reports.  Electronic reporting is efficient, it saves time by making the process faster, and saves money in mailing costs and/or courier delivery and related logistics.

Link to EPA Form 3540-16, as well as instructions on how to report, and how to add and use EPA’s SSTS electronic filing system are available below.

Further information is available on EPA’s website.


 
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By Timothy D. Backstrom

On January 9, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) announced the launch of a new website created in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that provides information about actions the federal government is taking to oversee the development of agricultural biotechnology products.  This “one-stop-shop” website was created under the direction of Executive Order (EO) “Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products.”

EPA regulates biotechnology-based pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and residues from such pesticides under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).  EPA also regulates under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) certain new microorganisms that are not subject to regulation under other statutes.  USDA regulates certain new biotechnology products under the Plant Protection Act (PPA), including agricultural crops that have been modified to be resistant to conventional pesticides.  FDA regulates the safety of human and animal foods produced using biotechnology, including genetically modified agricultural crops and animals, and the safety of drugs and human biologics produced with biotechnology, under the FFDCA.

The website, The Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation, describes the federal review process for biotechnology products, outline’s each agency’s role in regulating biotechnology products, and allows users to submit questions to the three agencies.  EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states that the new website “will help provide regulatory certainty and clarity to our nation’s farmers and producers by bringing together information on the full suite of actions the Trump Administration is taking to safely reduce unnecessary regulations and break down barriers for these biotechnology products in the marketplace.”

Commentary

In recent years, a number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) have raised concerns regarding the risks from products that have been genetically modified using biotechnology, including agricultural crops that have been genetically modified to improve pesticide or disease resistance, and agricultural animals that have been genetically modified to enhance food production.  In some instances, farmers have also expressed concern that crops with novel traits may exchange genetic information with other plant strains or species.  Implicit in all of this criticism is a presumption that the agencies with regulatory jurisdiction over these novel organisms have not adequately prevented or mitigated the risks associated with biotechnology.

In contrast, proponents of biotechnology have complained that regulatory requirements imposed by the responsible agencies have stifled useful innovation and have requested relief from regulatory requirements that they contend have impeded or slowed introduction of new products of agricultural biotechnology.  The Executive Order that underlies the new website seeks to streamline the administrative process for introducing novel agricultural products without increasing potential risks of biotechnology.

Additional information on how EPA regulates biotechnology products is available here.


 
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By Timothy D. Backstrom and Kelly N. Garson

On December 6, 2019, the European Union (EU) announced that it will no longer permit sales of chlorpyrifos after January 31, 2020.  The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF Committee) voted in favor of two draft Implementing Regulations that denied the renewal of approvals for chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl.  The European Commission is expected to formally adopt the regulations in January 2020.  At that time, Member States will need to withdraw authorizations for products containing chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl as active substances and may implement a grace period, at a maximum of three months, for final storage, disposal, and use of the substances.

The ban in the EU follows increased concerns over the human health effects of the substances.  On August 2, 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a report concluding that no safe exposure level could be determined for chlorpyrifos and that based upon available data, the approval criteria under Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 for human health were not met.  EFSA also published an updated statement reiterating the same conclusion for chlorpyrifos-methyl on November 26, 2019.  EFSA’s primary health concerns were potential developmental neurotoxicity based on the available animal data and epidemiological evidence, and unresolved concerns regarding potential genotoxicity.  EFSA also concluded that toxicological reference values could not be established for either of these effects, thereby precluding a valid risk assessment for consumers, workers, or bystanders.

Prior to the PAFF Committee meeting, eight EU states had already banned or never approved the use of chlorpyrifos.  Canada proposed a ban of chlorpyrifos on May 31, 2019.  (More information on this proposal is available in our blog post).

Within the United States, state governments have taken steps to regulate chlorpyrifos.  On June 13, 2018, Hawaii passed an act that banned the use of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos as an active ingredient beginning January 1, 2019.

Several recent actions in California culminated in a ban on chlorpyrifos.  First, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) decided that chlorpyrifos should be designated as a Toxic Air Contaminant.  This action was based primarily on a point of departure derived from new animal studies that report neurodevelopmental effects well below the level that inhibits cholinesterase.  On August 14, 2019, DPR issued cancellation notices for chlorpyrifos products based primarily on the same new animal data.  DPR subsequently announced on October 9, 2019, an agreement with pesticide manufacturers to end the sale of chlorpyrifos by February 6, 2020.  Growers will not be able to possess or use chlorpyrifos products in the state after December 31, 2020.

In New York State (NYS), recent efforts to ban the substance through legislation were unsuccessful.  On December 10, 2019, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill passed by the NYS Legislature (A.2477/S.5343) to phase out chlorpyrifos from use by December 1, 2021.  Governor Cuomo stated that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is responsible for taking regulatory action on the issue, but recommended that the agency implement its own phased-in ban of chlorpyrifos.

On the federal level, chlorpyrifos products remain registered and have been since 1965.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken measures to restrict the use of chlorpyrifos within households and on particular crops, but some non-governmental organizations (NGO) have long advocated that chlorpyrifos should be banned in its entirety.  On September 12, 2007, the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a petition requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos.  EPA’s failure to respond fully to this petition was the subject of several decisions in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Court ultimately issued a writ of mandamus requiring that EPA take final action concerning the petition.

At one point, EPA proposed to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos.  This action was based in part on a controversial determination that EPA should reinstate the default safety factor for tolerance assessments under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) for all organophosphate (OP) pesticides.  This determination was based on developmental neurotoxicity associated with chlorpyrifos exposure in certain epidemiology studies.  After further deliberation and a change of administrations, EPA issued an order denying the 2007 petition in its entirety on March 29, 2017, based in part on a conclusion stating that further evaluation was needed to properly assess potential neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos.  EPA later issued a final order that denied all objections to the March 2017 petition denial order.  A number of NGOs (including the original petitioners) and several states have challenged this decision, filing petitions on August 8 and August 9, 2019, respectively for judicial review of EPA’s final order retaining tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos.  EPA has stated that it intends to complete its evaluation of the epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos, as well as the new animal data relied on by California, in the context of the pending registration review of chlorpyrifos under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 3(g).  A final registration review decision concerning chlorpyrifos is due by October 1, 2022, although EPA has stated that it intends to accelerate that process.  More information on the petitions and chlorpyrifos is available on our blog.

Commentary

At this juncture, the long-term impact of the gradual accumulation of adverse decisions on chlorpyrifos from EFSA and various other governmental agencies is uncertain.  Most user groups in the United States continue to describe chlorpyrifos as an essential agricultural tool.  Some commodities treated with chlorpyrifos are destined for export markets where chlorpyrifos has been banned, however, and the impacts of this change will need to be monitored closely.

EPA’s interpretation of the epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos remains controversial in the scientific community.  Indeed, although the EFSA conclusion is predicated in part on these epidemiology studies that are the basis of the controversial EPA interpretation, the wording of the EFSA report indicates that there were some dissenters.  Moreover, the extension of EPA’s FQPA determination for chlorpyrifos to other organophosphate (OP) pesticides has never been satisfactorily explained.

The NGOs and states that have challenged EPA’s final order refusing to revoke the tolerances and cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos will argue that the final order cannot be reconciled with EPA’s prior scientific determinations.  Even if EPA can successfully rebut those arguments, there is also a possibility that EPA’s own review of the new animal chlorpyrifos studies may obviate that controversy.  On balance, the remaining manufacturers and registrations for chlorpyrifos are likely to confront a variety of challenges in the coming months.


 
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By Timothy D. Backstrom and James V. Aidala

On December 18, 2019, the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued for comment a Proposed Interim Decision (PID) in the ongoing registration review process for each of the three registered triazine herbicides: atrazine, propazine, and simazine.  EPA will allow 60 days for comment on each of these triazine PIDs, but the specific comment deadline will only be established after EPA has published notice concerning the proposed interim decisions in the Federal Register.  EPA can utilize an “interim registration review decision” under 40 C.F.R. Section 155.56 whenever it is not yet ready to complete the registration review process, but EPA has nonetheless completed sufficient review to determine that new or interim risk mitigation measures are needed or that additional data or information should be submitted to complete the review.  For each of the three triazine herbicides, EPA is proposing to impose specific risk mitigation measures for particular registered uses to mitigate potential health and environmental risks.  For each triazine herbicide, EPA is not yet ready to make a final registration review decision because EPA has not made findings in the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) or an effects determination under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Several key factors that will affect the final registration review decision for each of the triazine herbicides are discussed below.

Common Factors for Triazine Risk Assessment

There are several common factors to consider with regard to the triazines risk assessment.  These include:

  1. Atrazine, propazine, and simazine are all included in the chlorotriazine chemical class.  EPA has determined that these three herbicides, along with three specific chlorinated metabolites, share a common mechanism of toxicity, so human health risks from all of these substances are being assessed by EPA together through one cumulative triazine risk assessment. The contribution of each product to aggregate human risk differs because of somewhat dissimilar use patterns. The combining of risks resulting from use of each triazine means, however, that it may be necessary for EPA to coordinate the ultimate registration review decisions for the three active ingredients.
  2. As part of the ecological risk assessment for each triazine herbicide, EPA plans to make an effects determination for potentially vulnerable species under the ESA, which in turn will determine whether it is necessary for EPA to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services) concerning potential impacts of each active ingredient and relevant metabolites on endangered or threatened species.  Atrazine, propazine, and simazine are all included in a stipulated settlement between the parties in Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. EPA et al. No. 3:11 cv 0293 (N.D. Cal.), and EPA agreed in that stipulated settlement to set August 14, 2021, as the deadline for EPA to make a nationwide effects determination for each active ingredient, and to request any required consultation with the Services, under ESA Section 7(a)(2).
  3. EPA states that the predominant human health effect of concern for all three of the triazine herbicides and their chlorinated metabolites is potential suppression of the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge, which is considered to be both a neuroendocrine and a developmental effect.  Atrazine and simazine were both included on List 1 for screening testing under the EDSP required by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) amendments.   All of the required Tier 1 screening assays for each of these substances are complete and have been evaluated by EPA, but EPA has not yet made human health or environmental findings under the EDSP.  The EDSP screening testing has not been completed yet for propazine.

Risk Mitigation Measures

Each PID proposes specific risk mitigation measures intended to address potential human and environmental risks identified by the EPA risk assessments.

For atrazine, the PID includes the following measures to mitigate aggregate human risk:

  • Reduce the permissible application rates for use of granular and liquid formulations on residential turf.
  • Require additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and engineering controls for certain uses.
  • Restrict aerial applications to liquid formulations only.
  • Limit backpack sprayer applications to landscape turf to spot treatment only.
  • Prohibit pressurized handgun application to certain commodities.

To mitigate ecological risks, the atrazine PID proposes to require various spray drift reduction measures, to add a non-target advisory statement to labeling, and to adopt a nationwide stewardship program.

For propazine, the PID proposes to cancel the greenhouse use to mitigate aggregate human risk.  Ecological risks would be mitigated by proposing to require various spray drift reduction measures and by adding a non-target advisory statement to labeling.

For simazine, the PID includes the following measures to mitigate aggregate human risk:

  • Cancel simazine use on residential turf.
  • Require additional PPE and engineering controls for certain uses.
  • Limit pressurized handgun applications to certain commodities to spot treatment only.

Ecological risks would be mitigated by proposing to require various spray drift reduction measures and by adding a non-target advisory statement to labeling.

Commentary

In each of the PIDs for the triazine herbicides, EPA has focused its efforts on adopting mitigation measures which should be efficacious in reducing human and ecological risks without materially impairing the availability of the products in question for key agricultural uses.  In some instances, the PID documents explicitly state that the product registrants have agreed to proposed changes.  An EPA Pesticide Program Update dated December 19, 2019, that discusses the interim decision for atrazine includes statements of support from several grower groups.


 
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By Lisa R. Burchi and Kelly N. Garson

EPA recently released the Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) for the October 31, 2019, settlement discussed in our blog post “EPA Settles Two Cases Regarding Unregistered and Misbranded Pesticides.”  This October 31, 2019, settlement between U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3  and AFCO C&S, LLC (AFCO), a chemical company located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to resolve alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  Pursuant to the CAFO, AFCO agreed to pay a $1,489,000 penalty to settle the alleged violations that involved the use of 12 products to clean and sanitize food and beverage processing facilities.

The CAFO provides more information on the violations Region 3 alleged.  The CAFO allegations state that AFCO sold and distributed 10unregistered pesticide products on at least 1,031 separate occasions in violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(A).  The CAFO also alleges that AFCO sold and distributed a product that made claims beyond those permitted by its FIFRA registration on at least five separate occasions.  It additionally alleges that AFCO sold or distributed a misbranded pesticide on 41 separate occasions.

EPA initially collected the information during an inspection of AFCO’s establishment in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on June 20, 2016.  The settlement also addresses violations of a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) that EPA issued to AFCO on July 13, 2018, requiring AFCO to immediately cease all sales and distributions of the 12 products.  The CAFO alleges that AFCO engaged in sales and distributions that violated this order, having sold or distributed the products from at least January 1, 2015, through either August 8 or August 9, 2019.  AFCO has since discontinued sales of all of the involved products, except for one registered product, for which EPA issued an Order Modification letter on March 4, 2019, allowing AFCO to recommence sales.

AFCO will pay the civil penalty within one year in 12 equal monthly installments, plus interest payment of $7,954.96, totaling $1,496,954.96.


 
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By Heather F. Collins, M.S.

The January 15, 2020, deadline for payment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual maintenance fee for pesticide registrations is fast approaching.  The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 4(i)(5) requires that everyone who holds an active or suspended pesticide registration granted under FIFRA Sections 3 and 24(c) (special local needs) to pay an annual maintenance fee to keep the registration in effect.  The maintenance fee requirement does not apply to supplemental registrations of distributors which are identified by a three-element registration number.

The fee for 2020 is $4,000 for each registration up to the maximum fees which can be assessed to a single registrant.  Each registrant of a pesticide must pay the annual fee and mail the response to EPA by Wednesday, January 15, 2020.  Registrations for which the fee is not paid will be canceled, by order and without a hearing.

For certain qualified small businesses, the first product registration maintenance fee may be reduced by 25 percent, if the applicant meets the following criteria:

  1. The applicant has 500 or fewer employees globally;
  2. During the 3-year period prior to the most recent maintenance fee billing cycle the applicant has average annual gross revenue from all sources that do not exceed $10,000,000; and
  3. The applicant holds a total of 5 or fewer registrations subject to the maintenance fee.

There also are maintenance fee waivers for products that meet the criteria in two specific categories: minor agricultural use products and public health pesticides. The procedure for requesting a fee waiver for individual products is described in the instructions provided by EPA.

More information on the annual maintenance fees is available on EPA’s website.


 
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By Lara A. Hall, MS, RQAP-GLP and Barbara A. Christianson

On December 17, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host its first annual conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss alternative test methods and strategies to reduce animal testing.  EPA states that its conference “will bring together some of the leading voices in environmental and health research to discuss efforts to reduce testing on mammals.”  The conference will focus on the New Approach Methods (NAM), which include “any technologies, methodologies, approaches or combinations thereof that can be used to provide information on chemical hazard and potential human exposure that can avoid or significantly reduce the use of testing on animals,” and will have U.S. and international scientific experts present information on advancements in the field.  On-site participants attending the conference will have an opportunity to exchange information about scientific advancements in the NAMs field to develop a better understanding of the state of the science, discuss approaches for developing scientific confidence in using alternatives, and summarize existing studies characterizing the uncertainties in results from animal testing.

This conference is part of Administrator Wheeler’s “Directive to Prioritize Efforts to Reduce Animal Testing,” issued on September 10, 2019, which outlines EPA’s pursuit to aggressively reduce animal testing.  In his directive, Administrator Wheeler calls for EPA to reduce its requests for, and funding of, mammalian studies by 30 percent by 2025 and eliminate all mammalian study requests and funding by 2035.  Any mammalian studies requested or funded by EPA after 2035 will require Administrator approval on a case-by-case basis.  The directive also supports scientific advancements that allow scientists to predict potential hazards for risk assessments without using traditional animal testing methods.

Information on how to register to participate in the conference by webinar is available here.


 
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By Timothy D. Backstrom

On December 5, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) announced the availability of a revised interim registration review decision for use of sodium cyanide in the M-44 predator control device.  The M-44 device is a restricted use pesticide (RUP) and may be used only by certified applicators in compliance with specific mandatory restrictions set forth on the label.  Although the registration review process for sodium cyanide remains pending, EPA has decided to issue an interim decision for the M-44 device now to adopt new label restrictions intended to mitigate potential risks.  The revised interim decision adopts two new restrictions and also modifies certain existing restrictions, which EPA states "will reduce the potential for unintended impacts on humans, pets, and other non-target animals.”

The M-44 predator control device uses a spring-loaded ejector to fire a capsule containing a single lethal capsule of sodium cyanide.  The M-44 is used by livestock producers to control predators (primarily coyotes) that kill sheep, goats, and cattle.  Registrations for the M-44 device are currently held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and by five individual States (South Dakota, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico) where livestock predation has been a particular problem.

New or revised restrictions that will be incorporated in the approved labeling for the M-44 device include:

  • Requiring a 600-foot buffer zone around residences where an M-44 cannot be used (except for a cooperating landowner who has given written permission).
  • Requiring that the applicator notify occupants of all residences within a 0.5 mile radius (by face-to-face communication, person-to-person telephone communication, door hanger, or certified mail) prior to an M-44 placement.
  • Increasing from 50 feet to 300 feet the distance from designated public paths and roads where M-44 use is prohibited.
  • Requiring two elevated warning signs placed 15 feet from the M-44 device and facing the most likely directions of approach, instead of one elevated sign placed 25 feet from the device.

Commentary

Livestock producers and State departments of agriculture contend that the M-44 device is essential to limit economic losses resulting from predation, which reportedly amount to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.  In contrast, wildlife advocates have strongly opposed any continued use of the M-44 device.  In 2017, WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned EPA to suspend and cancel all registrations for M-44 capsules, but EPA concluded that the petition did not contain substantial new information and denied the petition in 2018.  Although the new and modified label restrictions adopted by EPA in the interim decision for the M-44 device are not likely to satisfy opponents, these changes should nonetheless reduce the likelihood that humans, pets, or other non-target species will be exposed to the M-44 capsules or the toxin they contain.


 
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By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and James V. Aidala

On November 21, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with Monsanto Company (Monsanto) in which Monsanto agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of illegally using the pesticide Penncap-M, a methyl parathion product that was cancelled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on July 27, 2010.  This settlement of several criminal counts by Monsanto followed an investigation by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division.  Under the existing stocks provision in the EPA cancellation order, continued use of Penncap-M became unlawful after December 31, 2013.  In the settlement documents, Monsanto admits that its employees knowingly violated this order by using Penncap-M on July 15, 2014, to treat corn seed research crops at Monsanto’s Valley Farm research facility in Maui, Hawaii. Monsanto also admits that Monsanto employees directed other employees to re-enter the treated site seven days after the July 15, 2014, application, although the re-entry period established for this pesticide prior to its cancellation was 31 days.  Monsanto further admits that it stored stocks of Penncap-M after December 31, 2013, when unused stocks of this product became an acute hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), at several locations in Hawaii without obtaining the required permits.

As part of the settlement, Monsanto agreed to pay a total of $10.2 million in fines and penalties, which includes a maximum fine of $200,000 for illegal use of a cancelled pesticide, $6 million in fines for the hazardous waste violations, and $4 million in community service payments to Hawaii governmental entities for various environmental remediation programs.  Monsanto also agreed to be sentenced to two years of probation.  If Monsanto adheres to all of its obligations under this settlement, at the end of the two-year period of probation, the criminal felony counts for the RCRA hazardous waste violations will be dismissed with prejudice.

Commentary

Although the agreement reached with Monsanto will allow Monsanto to escape any felony convictions, it is clear from the stiff penalties imposed (which include the maximum fine permissible for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) violation) that EPA considers the violations at issue to be very serious.  Pesticide research facilities often handle dangerous pesticides, and EPA typically affords such research facilities wide latitude to use unregistered active ingredients in small-scale research projects, but Monsanto has admitted that its personnel deliberately violated a FIFRA cancellation order, and did not comply with the restrictions on re-entry that were in place before the product in question was cancelled.  Monsanto also has admitted that it stored stocks of a cancelled pesticide at several sites after they became acute hazardous waste without obtaining the required permits.  The substantial penalties imposed may not seem surprising to some given those admissions.


 
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