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.

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.


 

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.


 

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.


 

By Lisa R. Burchi and Kelly N. Garson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently settled two cases involving allegations of non-compliance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  Although the Consent Agreement and Final Orders (CAFO) and Stop Sale, Use or Removal Orders (SSURO) issued in these cases are not yet available online, the penalty amounts at issue -- $200,000 and $1,489,000 -- reflect increased enforcement in targeted areas and EPA’s willingness to seek and obtain heroic penalties.

On November 18, 2019, EPA Region 9 announced that Decon7 Systems LLC (Decon7) would pay a $200,000 civil penalty in a settlement related to FIFRA violations.  Specifically, EPA found that Decon 7:

  • Sold and distributed two products that were not registered with EPA.  These products, “D7 Part 1” and “D7 Part 2,” combined to disinfect hard nonporous surfaces.  EPA regulations (40 C.F.R. § 152.15) set forth the conditions under which EPA will consider a product to be a pesticide product required to be registered, including but not limited to products containing certain “active” ingredients and/or making claims to kill, repel, or “disinfect” certain pests (e.g., germs, bacteria, viruses).
  • Sold and distributed pesticides that were labeled with false and misleading claims regarding safety and efficacy.  In addition to misleading efficacy claims to kill all bacteria, viruses, and fungi, EPA states:

The products also had false and misleading safety claims, which created the incorrect impression that the products were noncorrosive and nontoxic. The products’ formulations in fact could have caused skin burns and irreversible eye damage. The products’ labeling also claimed the products were used by various federal government agencies to clean up buildings following anthrax attacks, implying that the federal government recommends or endorses their use.

  • Exported unregistered pesticides that did not include necessary notifications and failed to comply with reporting obligations following a SSURO issued to the company in 2018.

On October 31, 2019, EPA Region 3 announced that it reached an agreement with AFCO C&S, LLC (AFCO), a chemical company located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to resolve alleged FIFRA violations.  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.  EPA alleges that AFCO sold and distributed ten unregistered pesticide products, a misbranded product, and a product that made claims beyond those permitted by its FIFRA registration.

The settlement also addresses violations of a SSURO that EPA issued to AFCO on July 13, 2018.  AFCO engaged in sales and distributions that violated this order.  AFCO has since discontinued sales of all of the involved products, except for one registered product.


 

By Jason E. Johnston

On October 15, 2019, EPA posted a total of 11 documents to the registration review docket for paraquat dichloride (EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0855).  Of primary interest in the registration review process under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) are the draft human health and ecological risk assessments.  Additional supporting documents posted to the docket include dietary, residential, and occupational exposure assessments; a review of analytical chemistry and residue data; a label use summary; a screening level usage analysis, results of a drinking water jar test; open literature and epidemiology literature reviews; and an incident report summary.

Paraquat is currently registered in the United States for use as an herbicide on over 100 crops in agricultural and commercial settings.  All paraquat products are restricted use products and may be applied only by certified pesticide applicators.  EPA has previously imposed additional restrictions and conditions to ensure the safe use of paraquat consistent with label directions.  These actions include a safety awareness campaign, changes to labels and product packaging, and specialized training for certified applicators using paraquat.  Evaluation of the effectiveness of these steps will be conducted in the registration review process.

Potential risks of concern to workers applying paraquat or entering treated fields are identified in the draft human health risk assessment, as are potential risks to bystanders from spray drift.  Prior submissions to EPA suggest a link between proper use of paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease, but EPA’s review of relevant data does not support a causal relationship.  This conclusion is not without controversy, as evidenced by an October 15, 2019, press release from the Center for Biological Diversity that calls out EPA’s failure to recognize a link between paraquat exposures and Parkinson’s Disease.  The ecological risk assessment identifies potential risks to mammals, birds, adult honey bees, terrestrial plants, and algae.  EPA is seeking comments on these and other issues raised in the draft risk assessments for paraquat.  Comments will be accepted on these documents until December 16, 2019.


 

By Susan M. Kirsch and Barbara A. Christianson

On October 24, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is proposing narrow updates to the Worker Protection Standard’s (WPS) provision on the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) requirements.  By narrowing updates to the WPS, EPA states that it will “improve the long-term success of the agency’s Application Exclusion Zone requirements” and “would improve enforceability for state regulators and reduce regulatory burdens for farmers.”  EPA believes narrowing updates to the WPS will also continue to protect the health of farm workers and other individuals near agricultural establishments who could be exposed to agricultural pesticide applications.  The proposed updates are consistent with the 2019 Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA).

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states that EPA’s proposal “would enhance the agency’s Application Exclusion Zone provisions by making them more effective and easier to implement.”  Wheeler states that “our proposal will make targeted updates, maintaining safety requirements to protect the health of those in farm country, while providing greater flexibility for farmers.”

EPA will hold a 90-day public comment period and seeks input on select updates that were publicly suggested to EPA by both state pesticide agencies responsible for enforcing the provision and agricultural stakeholders since the AEZ requirement was adopted in 2015.  The proposed updates are also consistent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s comments during a May 2017 meeting of EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee.

Specifically, EPA is proposing to:

  • Modify the AEZ so it is applicable and enforceable only on a farm owner’s property, where a farm owner can lawfully exercise control over employees and bystanders who could fall within the AEZ.  As currently written, the off-farm aspect of this provision has proven very difficult for state regulators to enforce.  These proposed changes would enhance both enforcement and implementation of the AEZ for state regulators and farm owners, respectively.  Off-farm bystanders would still be protected from pesticide applications with the existing “do not contact” requirement that prohibits use in a manner that would contact unprotected individuals.
  • Exempt immediate family members of farm owners from all aspects of the AEZ requirement.  This will allow farm owners and their immediate family members to decide whether to stay in their homes or other enclosed structures on their property during certain pesticide applications, rather than compelling them to leave even when they feel safe remaining.
  • Add clarifying language that pesticide applications that are suspended due to individuals entering an AEZ may be resumed after those individuals have left the AEZ.
  • Simplify the criteria for deciding whether pesticide applications are subject to the 25- or 100-foot AEZ.

Publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register will begin a 90-day comment period.  Comments are due on or before January 30, 2020.

When EPA included the AEZ concept in its 2015 WPS updates, of chief concern for pesticide applicators, farmers, and state departments of agriculture were the compliance and enforcement practicalities of aspects of the AEZ requirements.  For example, in scenarios where the AEZ extends to nearby roads and highways, it is difficult for pesticide applicators to be aware of every vehicle that may pass by that could enter the AEZ during applications.  It is unclear if the revised AEZ requirements adequately address these practical realities.  Agricultural stakeholders and pesticide applicators may wish to submit comments on the proposed revisions.

Additional information on the WPS is available on EPA's website.


 

By Heather F. Collins, M.S.

On October 17, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Spanish Translation Guide for Pesticide Labeling resource for use by all, including pesticide registrants that choose to display parts of their pesticide product label in Spanish.  The purpose of the guide is to be a resource for the translation of the health and safety sections on pesticide labeling from English to Spanish.  EPA states that the “guide is written in a universal form of Spanish to reach as many Spanish speakers as possible.”

While translating pesticide labels is not a requirement, EPA generally allows pesticide registrants to translate their product labels into any language so long as there is an EPA-accepted English version of the label and the translation is true and accurate.  The guide is not intended to substitute for or eliminate the pesticide labels in English. An English version of all required labeling text is needed for all pesticide products in accordance with 40 C.F.R. Section 156.10(a)(3).

The guide provides translations for standard language typically used in the health and safety sections of pesticide product labels such as the:

  • First aid and precautionary statement label language;
  • Signal words;
  • Misuse statements;
  • Storage and pesticide container disposal instructions;
  • Personal protection equipment label statements; and
  • Worker Protection Standard agricultural use requirements.

EPA states that it “developed the Spanish translation guide in response to feedback from stakeholders who believe that having bilingual pesticide labeling is critical to the well-being of pesticide handlers, applicators, and farmworkers, many of whom do not speak English as a first language.”

The English statement appears in the left-hand column and the corresponding Spanish translation is available in the right-hand column of the guide.  EPA states that the “guide will help registrants maintain accurate, consistent translations on product labels and ease their burden when adding Spanish translations.”


 

By Susan M. Kirsch

On September 30, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an updated Aquatic Life Benchmarks Table for registered pesticides.  The update includes four newly registered pesticides and their degradants as well as new values for more than 30 previously registered pesticides. The benchmarks inform state and local regulators in their interpretation of water quality monitoring data. Waterbodies where benchmarks are exceeded may be prioritized for further investigation.  EPA derived the latest updates from toxicity values from the most recent ecological risk assessments for the registered pesticides as part of the regular registration review. EPA aims to update the table on an annual basis.  The full table and links to source documents for each of the benchmarks are accessible on EPA’s website here.


 

By Kelly N. Garson and Carla N. Hutton

On September 17, 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opened a consultation period on two pilot assessments of the risks posed to humans by residues of multiple pesticides in food.  EFSA is seeking comments from interested parties on the assessments.  The first assessment considers the chronic effects of multiple pesticides on the thyroid system.  The second looks at acute effects on the nervous system.

EFSA produced the assessments in collaboration with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment for the Netherlands (RIVM) using monitoring data from 2014, 2015, and 2016.  In approving pesticides for use in the European Union (EU), EFSA establishes a maximum level of pesticide residue (MRL) allowed in food or animal feed.  The MRL considers the cumulative effects of pesticides.  Pesticides may only be placed on the EU market if they have no harmful effects on humans, including cumulative effects.  In the two pilot assessments, EFSA classified pesticides into “cumulative assessment groups” (CAG) based upon whether they produce similar toxic effects in a specific organ or system.  EFSA states that “[t]he overall draft conclusion for both assessments is that consumer risk from dietary cumulative exposure is below the threshold that triggers regulatory action for all the population groups covered.”

In 2020, EFSA will prepare the assessments in final, which will serve to “inform risk managers in the European Commission and Member States who regulate the safe use of pesticides in the EU.”

EFSA will present the assessments at a special stakeholder event in Brussels, Belgium, on October 22, 2019.  The meeting is intended to allow stakeholders with expertise and interest in the area to discuss the technical issues relating to the draft assessments.  Registration for the meeting closes on October 11, 2019.

All comments must be submitted by November 15, 2019.  Comments on the “Cumulative dietary risk characterisation of pesticides that have chronic effects on the thyroid” may be submitted at https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/PC_CRA_Thyroid_Sept-2019.  Comments on the “Cumulative dietary risk characterisation of pesticides that have acute effects on the nervous system” may be submitted at https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/PC_CRA_Nerv_Syst_Sept-2019.

The two draft assessments are available on EFSA’s website.


 

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

On October 1, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the that fees under the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2018 (PRIA 4) were increased by five percent for pesticide applications received on or after October 1, 2019.  The five percent increase is on fee amounts established by Public Law 116-8, which became effective on March 8, 2019.  The revised fees will remain in effect until September 30, 2021.

The fee schedule provided in PRIA 4 identifies the registration service fees and decision times organized according to the organizational units of the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) within EPA.  EPA presents the schedules as 19 tables, organized by OPP Division and by type of application or pesticide subject to the fee, and lists the registration service fee for actions received in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.  Applicants must submit fee payments at the time of application.  EPA will reject any application that does not contain evidence that the PRIA 4 fee has been paid.

The revised fee schedule for PRIA 4 fiscal years 2020 and 2021 is available on EPA’s website.  More information on the PRIA 4 legislation is available on our blog under key word PRIA.


 
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