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By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala

On February 1, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is publishing new guidance that sets forth a tiered approach intended to help manufacturers and EPA determine when the number of field trials necessary to register seed treatment uses can be reduced. 

In its memo and attached Seed-Treatment Focus Group (STFG) Guidance Document dated January 26, 2018, EPA states that its Health Effect Divison (HED) has received “multiple waiver requests for seed-treatment field-trial residue data and has reviewed multiple field-trial datasets that indicated that there was the potential to reduce the number of field trials required to support the registration of seed-treatment uses.”  EPA states that to evaluate this hypothesis, the HED Chemistry Science Advisory Council (ChemSAC), in collaboration with the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), in accordance with the July 11, 2017, Joint Canada/United States Field Trial Requirements “performed a retrospective analysis of all seed-treatment residue data that have been submitted to EPA/PMRA and has developed a tiered approach for determining if current crop-specific field trial data requirements are required to support new seed-treatment uses, or if a reduction in the number of required field trials is appropriate.”  EPA’s announcement states that “the analysis showed that the data required to support registration could be substantially reduced and still be protective of human health.”

EPA developed two decision trees detailing the process for determining the residue chemistry field trial data requirements for seed-treatment uses:  one for potato seed-piece (PSP) treatments only and another one for all remaining crops.  EPA states that this case study demonstrates that application of the guidance set forth in these decision trees can, for both manufacturers and the agency, “potentially save considerable resources in terms of conducting, submitting, and reviewing the studies while still obtaining the data necessary to support seed-treatment pesticide registrations.”

The outlined procedure and memo document will supersede EPA’s previous guidance issued on October 28, 1999, entitled “Classification of Seed Treatments as Food or Nonfood Uses.”

More information is available on EPA’s Determining the Number of Field Trials Required to Register Seed-Treatment Uses webpage.


This announcement of improved review procedures allows EPA to cite both greater coordination across national borders (working with Canada), and reduce unnecessary data requirements.  This would fit with the current Administration’s emphasis on reducing regulatory burdens and fostering greater innovation in regulated arenas.  It also might be seen as general “good government,” as it updates guidance which is now almost twenty years old.  Since seed treatment technology and associated policy issues have both evolved over the years, such a review and revision would seem timely regardless of any larger political directive.