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

On November 2, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the proposed rule to add chitosan (Poly-D-Glucosamine) to its list of active ingredients eligible for EPA’s minimum risk pesticide exemption under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 25(b).  85 Fed. Reg. 69307.

The proposed rule is in response to a petition submitted to EPA on October 10, 2018, requesting that chitosan be added to the list of active ingredients eligible for EPA’s minimum risk exemption, followed by an April 4 2019, amended petition seeking also to add chitosan to the list of inert ingredients eligible for the minimum risk exemption.  EPA on August 20, 2020, issued a Federal Register notice stating that a draft regulatory document on this issue had been forwarded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  EPA states that no comments were submitted on that notice by USDA or any other person.  EPA also forwarded the draft to the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel for review, but according to EPA, the Panel “waived review of this proposed rule, concluding that the proposed rule does not contain scientific issues that warrant scientific review by the Panel.”  On October 8, 2020, EPA again announced it was considering adding chitosan to the list of active ingredients allowed for use in minimum risk pesticides and provided a pre-publication version of the proposed rule.

EPA states in the November 2, 2020, Federal Register notice regarding the proposed rule: “Based on all the information available to the Agency, there are low risk concerns for human health or the environment if chitosan is intended for use as a minimum risk pesticide.”  According to EPA, adding chitosan to this list may save stakeholders time and money through waived FIFRA registration requirements for certain products containing chitosan.  Specifically, EPA estimates the cost savings of avoiding the application process (e.g., guideline studies, registration fees) to be up to $116,000 initially and approximately $3,400 per year thereafter for each new product.

Comments on EPA’s proposal to add chitosan to its list of active ingredients for use on minimum risk pesticides are due on or before January 4, 2021, in Docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0701.   EPA states that it is currently deferring a decision regarding the amended petition to add chitosan to the list of inert ingredients permitted in minimum risk pesticides.

Additional information on chitosan is available on our blog.


 

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

On October 30, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule on the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) regulation that revises the requirements on the pesticide application exclusion zone (AEZ), defined as an “area surrounding the point(s) of pesticide discharge from the application equipment that must generally be free of all persons during pesticide applications.”  According to EPA, the targeted changes improve the enforceability and workability of the AEZ requirements, decrease regulatory burdens for farmers, and maintain critical worker protections.  EPA also states the revisions made to the AEZ are consistent with the 2018 Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2018 (PRIA 4).

The final AEZ requirements will go into effect on December 29, 2020.

EPA initially promulgated the WPS regulation in 1992 under EPA’s Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) authorities to protect farm workers from pesticide exposures in production agriculture. According to EPA, “WPS is a uniform set of requirements for workers, handlers, and their employers that are generally applicable to all agricultural pesticides and are incorporated onto agricultural pesticide labels by reference. Its requirements complement the product-specific labeling restrictions and are intended to minimize occupational exposures generally.”

In 2015, EPA issued significant revisions to the 1992 WPS.  Of particular significance, 2015 revisions included a new provision requiring agricultural employers to keep workers and all other individuals out of the AEZ during outdoor pesticide applications.  The AEZ was set at 25 feet in all directions for ground pesticide applications when sprayed from a height greater than 12 inches, and 100 feet in all directions for outdoor aerial, air blast, air-propelled, fumigant, smoke, mist, and fog pesticide applications.  This provision was controversial, however, with state regulators expressing concerns with enforcing the complex AEZ requirements and farm owners expressing concerns with applying and complying with pesticide regulations.

EPA states in the final rule that it clarified and simplified the AEZ requirements based in part on input from state pesticide regulatory agencies and agricultural stakeholders after the adoption of the 2015 WPS rule.  Consistent with PRIA 4, EPA is implementing changes related only to the AEZ requirements in the WPS.  These targeted changes include:

  • Modifying the AEZ so it is applicable and enforceable only on an agricultural employer’s property, as proposed.
  • Adding clarifying language indicating that pesticide applications that have been suspended due to individuals entering an AEZ on the establishment may be resumed after those individuals have left the AEZ.
  • Excepting agricultural employers and handlers from the requirement to suspend applications owing to the presence within the AEZ of persons not employed by the establishment who are in an area subject to an easement that prevents the agricultural employer from temporarily excluding those persons from that area.
  • Allowing the owners and their immediate family (as defined in 40 C.F.R. Section 170.305) to shelter in place inside closed buildings, housing, or shelters within the AEZ, and allowing the application performed by handlers to proceed, provided that the owner has instructed the handlers that only the owner’s immediate family are inside the closed shelter and that the application should proceed despite their presence.
  • Simplifying and clarifying criteria and factors for determining AEZ distances of either 100 or 25 feet by basing the AEZ on application method.  EPA has removed the language and criteria pertaining to spray quality and droplet size, as proposed, so that all ground spray applications from a height greater than 12 inches are subject to the same 25-foot AEZ.

EPA states that many of the changes proposed in November 2019 were retained in the final rule.  Changes that were made include the following:

  • The final rule adds clarifications and revisions to the regulatory text regarding providing an immediate family exemption to the AEZ requirements.  The final rule provides that the AEZ exemption for the immediate family members applies only when the farm owner or immediately family members are inside an enclosed building within the AEZ.
  • The final rule also clarifies that owners may permit handlers to continue with applications when the owner’s family is inside an enclosed structure or home, provided that the owner has expressly instructed the handlers that only the owner’s immediate family members are inside the closed shelter and that the application should proceed despite their presence within that structure.

The final rule is available at EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0543.  Additional information on the revisions to the AEZ requirements is available here.


 

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

On October 28, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of its progress report in meeting its performance measures and goals for pesticide reregistration during fiscal year (FY) 2018 (2018 Report).  85 Fed. Reg. 68327.  Section 4(l) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires EPA to publish information about EPA’s annual achievements in this area.  The 2018 Report discusses the completion of tolerance reassessment and describes the status of various regulatory activities associated with reregistration.  The 2018 Report also provides the total number of products reregistered and products registered under the “fast-track” provisions of FIFRA.  The report is available at EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0125.  Comments can be submitted on or before December 28, 2020.

EPA’s completed product reregistration actions totaled 177, short of EPA’s goal of 400 actions.  The table below details the actions completed in FY 2018.

Table 1.  Product Reregistration Actions Completed in FY 2018 (as of September 30, 2018)

Actions FY 2018
Product reregistration actions 19
Product amendment actions 33
Product cancellation actions 125
Product suspension actions 0
Total actions 177

 

 

 

 

 

 

EPA also states that 4,193 products had product reregistration decisions pending at the end of FY 2018, compared to 4,370 products with product reregistration decisions pending at the end of FY 2017, and 4,621 products with product reregistration decisions pending at the end of FY 2016.  Regarding changes in the universe of products in product reregistration, EPA states: “an increase or decrease can be due to fluctuations in numbers of products associated with product-specific Data Call-Ins (PDCIs).”

The number of applications for registration requiring expedited processing (i.e., “fast-track” applications) that EPA considered and approved has been more consistent in recent years, with 2,422, 2,574, and 2,303 in 2016, 2017, and 2018, respectively.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lara A. Hall, MS, RQAP-GLP, and Heather F. Collins, M.S.

On October 7, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is requesting comments on its draft guidance that would allow registrants, in certain circumstances, to forgo testing chemicals on animal skin to determine whether a pesticide would lead to adverse effects.  This new draft guidance is part of EPA’s continued efforts to reduce animal testing and achieve its goal of eliminating all EPA requests for studies and EPA funding of studies on mammals by 2035.

According to EPA, the draft dermal toxicity guidance would allow applicants to request waivers for acute dermal toxicity studies on single-active ingredients used to develop end-use products.  The new draft guidance also allows EPA to harmonize with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Canada, which published guidance on acute dermal toxicity waivers for both formulations and technical chemicals in 2017.  The draft guidance is in addition to the final guidance for waiving acute dermal toxicity tests published by EPA in November 2016 for pesticide formulations.

In developing the guidance, EPA states that it conducted a retrospective analysis of rat acute oral and acute dermal LD50 studies for 249 active ingredients across numerous chemical classes and toxicity categories.  Fumigants and rodenticides were excluded from this analysis, based on their physical state and/or anticipated exposures to them.  EPA concluded that for 67 percent of the 249 technical chemicals, the results of both oral and dermal acute toxicity studies fall within the same Toxicity Category.  For 32 percent of the chemicals, the oral study falls within a lower (i.e., more protective) Toxicity Category; thus, for 99 percent of the chemicals in the analysis, if the dermal study had not been available and labeling had been based only on the Toxicity Category for the oral acute toxicity study, the labeling requirements would have been equally or more protective.  For the two remaining chemicals (less than 1 percent), factors other than the dermal acute toxicity may influence labeling requirements.  EPA concluded that its requirements for such acute dermal toxicity studies provide little to no added value in regulatory decision making.  EPA states that this guidance, when finalized, is expected to reduce the number of test animals used annually by approximately 750, as well as save EPA, industry, and laboratory resources.

EPA states that it believes the retrospective analysis fully supports the conclusion that waivers may be granted for acute dermal toxicity studies for pesticide technical chemicals, except for fumigants and rodenticides.  Waivers may be accepted for fumigants and rodenticides on a case-by-case basis with appropriate scientific rationale.  Once the guidance is issued in final form, EPA states that applicants who wish to pursue waivers for these studies would submit formal waiver requests as part of the registration application through existing processes and cite the guidance as support for the requests.  EPA maintains the ability to request acute dermal toxicity data on a case-by-case basis, but states that it anticipates granting the waiver in most cases.

Comments on the draft guidance are due on or before November 9, 2020, and can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0093.

EPA also announced the launch of its new webpage that provides metrics and strategies for reducing and replacing animal testing, including links and resources to all pertinent guidance and work plans tied to the larger Toxicology in the 21st Century Initiative across the federal government.  The directive, issued by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in September 2019, calls for EPA to reduce animal testing and to reduce funding 30 percent by 2025 and eliminate it by 2035.  EPA states that its actions to date to support these efforts include:

  • In September 2019, EPA announced $4.25 million in funding for five universities to research and develop alternative test methods for evaluating chemical safety.
  • In December 2019, EPA convened a conference for achieving reduced animal testing in chemical safety research and updated its list of New Approach Methodologies (NAM) that could be used in EPA’s work under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act, including adding 21 new test guidelines related to health and ecological effects and six additional EPA policies that reduce the use of animal testing.
  • In June 2020, EPA released a NAMs work plan that details how EPA plans to develop, test, and apply chemical safety testing approaches without the use of animals.
  • In February 2020, EPA issued final guidance waiving the subacute dietary testing of pesticides on birds when the additional information is unnecessary to support a pesticide registration decision, which is expected to save 720 test animals annually.
  • In July 2020, EPA announced new guidance to reduce unnecessary testing on fish, which is expected to save 240 test animals annually.

EPA will host its Second Annual Conference on the State of the Science on Development and Use of NAMs for Chemical Safety Testing virtually on October 19 and 20, 2020.  Additional information on EPA’s efforts to reduce animal testing is available here.


 

This week's All Things Chemical™ Podcast will be of interest to readers of the Pesticide Law & Policy Blog®. A brief description of the episode written by Lynn L. Bergeson is below.

This week, I sat down with Jim Aidala, Senior Government Affairs Consultant at B&C and its consulting affiliate, The Acta Group.  As a former Assistant Administrator in what is now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Jim has a keen sense of how EPA prepares for and transitions to changes in Administrations.  As we prepare for the November elections, we thought it would be good to check-in with Jim and get a sense of how our colleagues at EPA are faring.  After reviewing key topics in the pesticide world, Jim walks us through how and when pesticide registrants and others in the commercial value chain can prepare for any forthcoming transition, consequential or otherwise.  Jim discusses whether regulated entities can expect policy changes occasioned by a new Administration, regardless of who wins.  Jim also addresses the implications of changes in the Supreme Court in light of Justice Ginsburg’s death. Jim’s insights in these areas is spot on and timely.

ALL MATERIALS IN THIS PODCAST ARE PROVIDED SOLELY FOR INFORMATIONAL  AND ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES. THE MATERIALS ARE NOT INTENDED TO CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR THE PROVISION OF LEGAL SERVICES. ALL LEGAL QUESTIONS SHOULD BE ANSWERED DIRECTLY BY A LICENSED ATTORNEY PRACTICING IN THE APPLICABLE AREA OF LAW.

©2020 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.  All Rights Reserved


 

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

On August 20, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is seeking to add chitosan to the list of active ingredients allowed for in minimum risk pesticides exempted from pesticide registration requirements under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 25(b).  A minimum risk product must meet six specific conditions to be exempted from pesticide registration.  One of those conditions is that the active ingredient in the minimum risk pesticide be one that is listed specifically by EPA.  If added to the list of minimum risk pesticide active ingredients, pesticide products containing chitosan could qualify as minimum risk pesticides provided the other conditions are also satisfied (e.g., using inert ingredients approved by EPA for use in minimum risk pesticides, not making any public health claims).

Chitosan is a naturally occurring polymer that is derived from the shells of crustaceans.  It is currently registered as a fungicide, antimicrobial agent, and plant growth regulator that boosts the ability of plants to defend against fungal infections.  For uses as a plant growth regulator, chitosan is applied to treat field crops, ornamentals, turf, home gardens, and nurseries.  Target pests include early and late blight, downy and powdery mildew, and gray mold.  As an antimicrobial agent, chitosan is used on textiles to protection the fabric from bacterial and fungal growth.  Chitosan is exempt from the requirement for a pesticide tolerance.

History -- The Caesar Salad Chemicals

The origin of the Section 25(b) list came from an effort by EPA to deregulate products which, while meeting the definition of being a pesticide (a product with the intended purpose of being sold or distributed to kill or repel a pest as defined under FIFRA), were common products of established safety.  More precisely, products with a lack of toxicity such that it was a “waste of resources” for EPA to subject such products to the bureaucratic requirements of FIFRA registration.

In particular, at an oversight Congressional hearing on the lack of progress being made at the time on EPA’s attempt to complete re-registration (now referred to as registration review), the EPA witness was asked about some most recently released re-registration assessments.  These referred to the four registered pesticides:  garlic, capsicum, acetic acid, and citric acid.  These are pesticides formulated into various products, and in the hearing were referred to by more common names: garlic, pepper, vinegar, and lemon juice.  This led to a famous oversight question to the EPA witness:  “Are you making progress or Caesar Salad?”

This led, in part, to the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) allowing very low risk pesticides to be exempt from registration.  It eventually issued the original Section 25(b) list to conserve review resources.  At the same time, since these products no longer had to be registered, it allowed label language such as “natural,” “non-toxic,” and “safe around children and pets,” which are disallowed registered product label claims.  Not surprisingly, label language allowing the word “safe” has proven to be a popular marketing claim for products that meet the exemption requirements.

At the same time, the fine print of the Section 25(b) exemption did not allow health and safety claims on such products even if they were made from Section 25(b) ingredients.  In particular, this led to concerns about insect repellents that could be made from Section 25(b) ingredients and were labeled as repelling mosquitoes or ticks or other public health pests; they could include the word “safe” as long they did not also mention any disease or other public health claims.  The average consumer, however, likely does not distinguish between insect repellents (or other products) that fit EPA’s definition of public health claims and those simply listing the target pest (e.g., mosquitoes, ticks, or rodents).  The average consumer is unlikely to realize the distinction between a product labeled as “XX insect repellent -- repels mosquitoes -- all natural and safe,” which may not have evidence of efficacy, and another product that says “YY insect repellent -- made from natural ingredients and repels mosquitoes, which may carry West Nile Virus” -- which is required to be registered and include proof of efficacy for any public health claims.

This possible consumer confusion was the subject of a FIFRA petition filed in 2006 by the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA).  The petition suggests that EPA modify the Section 25(b) regulation to exclude products claiming to control public health pests from the Section 25(b) exemption -- which would then require registration, including data proving efficacy (Docket: EPA-HQ-OPP-2006-0687-0002).

EPA responded to the CSPA petition in 2007, essentially agreeing about the problem of possible consumer confusion.  In a letter to CSPA, EPA stated:

…. whether we decide to pursue rulemaking or some other avenue, we intend to move as expeditiously as possible to identify the most efficient approach to protect the public from unknowingly relying on products that target public health pests and have not been shown to work.

EPA later announced that it would embark on rulemaking to address this possible consumer confusion.  It is, however, unclear whether this is still a pending matter on EPA’s agenda.  No docket materials have been added in many years.  As part of its Semiannual Regulatory Agenda in fall 2011, EPA included an entry that stated a Section 25(b) proposed rule would be issued before February 2013.  It is not clear if EPA continues to have plans to issue such a proposal.

Commentary

EPA’s August 20 proposal is an interesting development, as EPA’s other revisions and proposals for minimum risk pesticides trend toward adding restrictions to the conditions to be satisfied, thus limiting exemptions.  The current proposal would expand the exemptions by adding another active ingredient to the otherwise limited approved list.  Since changes to the Section 25(b) list will require a rulemaking, it is unclear what happened to the earlier plan to issue a proposed rule addressing the long-ago CSPA petition response.

EPA states that it has forwarded to the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) a draft regulatory document concerning “Pesticides; Addition of Chitosan to the List of Active Ingredients Allowed in Exempted Minimum Risk Pesticides Products.”  EPA will not make this draft regulatory document available to the public until after it has been signed.  When it is available, that document and additional information will be available in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0701.


 

This week's All Things Chemical™ Podcast will be of interest to readers of the Pesticide Law & Policy Blog®. A brief description of the episode written by Lynn L. Bergeson is below.

This week I sat down with James Aidala, B&C’s Senior Government Affairs Consultant, to catch up on what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) is up to and to get a sense of what we might expect to develop over the remainder of the year.  As a former Assistant Administrator of what is now the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Jim’s thoughts and analyses are always spot on.

We discuss leadership within OPP, which is transitioning.  Not surprisingly, who holds the position of Office Director is always of great interest to the agricultural and biocidal chemical communities.

We also touch upon a number of high-profile pesticide science policy debates about substances, some of which have been raging literally for years.  These substances include dicamba, glyphosate, and chlorpyrifos.  The legal and scientific administrative and judicial reviews under way in the United States and internationally are fascinating, precedent setting, and closely watched.

Our conversation also includes a bit about the commercial agricultural chemical community.  Industry consolidation and international trade issues continue to challenge the commercial landscape, and they make keeping up with these issues all the more important.

ALL MATERIALS IN THIS PODCAST ARE PROVIDED SOLELY FOR INFORMATIONAL  AND ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES. THE MATERIALS ARE NOT INTENDED TO CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR THE PROVISION OF LEGAL SERVICES. ALL LEGAL QUESTIONS SHOULD BE ANSWERED DIRECTLY BY A LICENSED ATTORNEY PRACTICING IN THE APPLICABLE AREA OF LAW.


 

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

On July 6, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it approved amended labels for two products, Lysol Disinfectant Spray (EPA Reg. No. 777-99) and Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist (EPA Reg. No. 777-127), based on laboratory testing that shows the products are effective against SARS-CoV-2.  These are the first products for which EPA has reviewed laboratory testing data and approved label claims against SARS-CoV-2. 

In January 2020, at the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 public health emergency, EPA activated its Emerging Viral Pathogens guidance (Guidance),  This Guidance was developed in April 2016 to set forth procedures for EPA to respond to the potential need for products to combat emerging viral pathogens that are not on EPA-registered disinfectant labels.  The Guidance allows product registrants to make limited claims of their product’s efficacy against SARS-CoV-2, provided in part that there are efficacy data that have already been reviewed by EPA and demonstrate their products are effective against harder-to-kill viruses than SARS-CoV-2. 

Since activating its Guidance for the first time, EPA has reviewed amendments for already EPA-registered surface disinfectants on an expedited basis and developed a list -- List N -- of products that meet its criteria under the Guidance for use against SARS-CoV-2.  List N currently includes 431 products and is updated weekly.  In many cases, EPA states that it was able to approve claims in as little as 14 days.

This week, EPA updated the entries for the two Lysol products on List N to indicate they have now been tested directly against SARS-CoV-2.  This is significant since they are the first List N products for which EPA has reviewed laboratory testing data specifically against SARS-CoV-2, and not listed based on EPA’s determination that a product can be used against SARS-CoV-2 because of the product’s effectiveness against a harder-to-kill virus. 

EPA states that it expects to approve such claims for additional List N products in the coming weeks.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on July 2, 2020, that it has registered NSPW Nanosilver (a new nanosilver formulation) to suppress odor-causing bacteria and algae, fungus, mold, and mildew that can cause deterioration or staining in textiles.  Textiles that may be treated with NSPW Nanosilver include fabrics, sportswear, footwear, linens, and awnings.  NSPW Nanosilver is the active ingredient in the pesticide product POLYGUARD-NSPW MASTER BATCH (Polyguard).  The NSPW Nanosilver in Polyguard will be embedded within beads or pellets of a polymeric material in a “master batch,” and these beads of pellets will then be incorporated into treated textiles through a closed-loop manufacturing process.  EPA states that once the beads or pellets containing NSPW Nanosilver are introduced into this manufacturing process, no beads or pellets can escape into the environment.  EPA also states that the available data indicate that the leach rate of nanosilver from NSPW Nanosilver-treated textiles is below the limit of detection.

The same type of nanosilver was the active ingredient in another product that EPA previously conditionally registered under FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(C) in 2015.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision vacating that conditional registration because the court concluded that the mandatory public interest finding by EPA was not adequately supported by the administrative record.  According to EPA, the new registration for NSPW Nanosilver involves a modified use pattern that will limit exposures compared to the product that received the previously vacated conditional registration.  Based on additional data that the applicant has submitted to support the use pattern as modified, EPA has prepared an updated risk assessment for NSPW Nanosilver and has determined based on that risk assessment that the product as modified meets the standard for an unconditional registration under FIFRA Section 3(c)(5).  Materials supporting this action will be posted in Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2020-0043.

Commentary

Registering any new metallic silver product that satisfies the EPA criteria for classification as nanosilver for use as an antimicrobial pesticide presents special challenges, because EPA has adopted a policy that it will construe each new nanosilver product as a new pesticidal active ingredient.  The predecessor to NSPW Nanosilver (Nanosilva) was granted a conditional registration, a procedure that EPA uses when there are data gaps that must be filled before EPA is ready to make the determinations that would support issuance of an unconditional registration.  EPA may only issue a conditional registration for a product containing a new pesticidal active ingredient when EPA makes a determination that “use of the pesticide is in the public interest,” and the Ninth Circuit Court determined that EPA did not compile an administrative record adequate to support that finding.

Colloidal metallic silver products that meet the definition of nanosilver were first synthesized in the late 19th century.  Some industry stakeholders question whether the differences between different pesticide products that satisfy the EPA definition of nanosilver are sufficiently great to treat each new product as a new active ingredient, but it is also clear that the size and shape of the particles in these products do vary.  In this instance, EPA has determined that the supporting data for the application allow EPA to issue an unconditional registration.  Accordingly, the legal issue on which the Ninth Circuit based its prior decision to vacate the conditional registration for Nanosilva is not pertinent to the current registration decision.  Given the challenge to the prior registration decision, it will be important to monitor any opposition to the newly issued registration.


 

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

On June 3, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an opinion in National Family Farm Coalition v. EPA, No. 19-70115, vacating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2018 decisions to extend the conditional registrations for  three reduced volatility dicamba herbicides, Bayer’s XtendiMax, Corteva’s FeXapan, and BASF’s Engenia. 

The manufacturers of these dicamba products designed them to facilitate control of glyphosate resistant weeds in strains of soybeans and cotton that have been genetically modified to be dicamba tolerant (DT).  Although the manufacturers intended these dicamba products to be less volatile and less susceptible to drift into adjacent non-target areas than previous formulations of dicamba, there were nonetheless many complaints that the products cause damage to non-tolerant crops and other vulnerable vegetation.  The Petitioners that challenged EPA’s decision to extend the conditional registrations for these reformulated dicamba products include a group representing small farmers who claim that the new dicamba products have damaged their crops (National Family Farm Coalition) and several non-governmental organizations that routinely oppose new pesticide registrations (the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Pesticide Action Network North America). 

Although the case included some allegations by the Petitioners that EPA did not comply with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, the court did not reach those issues.  The court found unanimously that EPA’s decision to extend the conditional registrations for the three dicamba herbicides did not satisfy the requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  Specifically, the court found that the administrative record compiled by EPA did not include “substantial evidence” supporting EPA’s determination that registering the new uses “would not significantly increase the risk of any unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.”  EPA is required under FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(B) to make this determination to grant a conditional registration of new uses of a currently registered pesticide.  The court concluded that EPA could not make this required determination because, the court stated, the record shows that EPA “substantially understated the risks that it acknowledged” and also “entirely failed to acknowledge other risks.”

According to the court, EPA made six material errors in its analysis supporting the registrations. First, the court stated that EPA understated the amount of acreage planted with DT crops in 2018, and consequently also underestimated the amount of the new dicamba products that would be applied that year, even though the decision to extend the conditional registrations for the new dicamba products was not issued until the end of the 2018 growing season.  Second, in the court’s view, EPA improperly found that the number of complaints concerning damage to non-target crops and vegetation by the new dicamba products might be over-reported when the record included overwhelming evidence that non-target damage was being under-reported.  Third, the court stated that EPA refused even to estimate how much damage to non-target vegetation would be caused by the new dicamba products when the record contained sufficient information for EPA to make such an estimate.  Fourth, according to the court, EPA refused to acknowledge the substantial risk of non-compliance with the large number of detailed restrictions set forth in the 40-page approved label, although the court found that “there was substantial evidence that even conscientious applicators had not been able to consistently adhere to the label requirements.”  Fifth, the court believes EPA failed to acknowledge the anti-competitive effect of the new technology, which encourages other growers to use DT crops even if they do not use the new dicamba products, to avoid damage from nearby applications.  Sixth, according to the court, EPA failed to acknowledge the social cost being caused in small communities where damage caused by use of the new dicamba products has turned formerly amicable neighbors against each other. 

Based on all of these purported deficiencies, the court held that EPA’s rationale for determining that the risk of unreasonable adverse effects would not be significantly increased by the new dicamba uses, and that the registration for the new dicamba products could therefore be extended for two additional years, was not supported by “substantial evidence” in the administrative record taken as a whole.  The court also held that remanding the matter to EPA for further action without vacatur would not be appropriate because EPA did not satisfy the requirement to extend the conditional registrations.  Instead, the court simply vacated the registrations and invited EPA to try again.  The court acknowledged that such a decision would cause disruption, especially for those growers that have already purchased DT seeds and dicamba herbicides for this year's growing season, but concluded that no remedy other than vacatur would be appropriate given the deficiencies in the administrative record.

Commentary

When FIFRA was amended to allow new pesticide products to be “conditionally” registered even though the applicants had not submitted data to satisfy all applicable requirements, the focus was primarily on allowing registration of new products that are “substantially similar” to already registered products.  FIFRA Section 3(c)(7) also allows conditional registrations to be issued for new uses of existing active ingredients and for new active ingredients without all required data if EPA has sufficient information to make certain findings while it waits for additional data, but requires that EPA be able to determine that certain requirements can be met even though not all of the supporting data that will ultimately be needed are yet available.

This court’s decision illustrates the type of problems that can occur when EPA issues a conditional registration for new products that are not “substantially similar” to registered products.  The court’s view of the sufficiency of the record in this case sets a high bar for the determinations that must support other types of conditional registrations.  This problem was previously illustrated when a reviewing court vacated a new registration for a new nanosilver product even though there were already registered nanosilver products.  In that case, because EPA chose as a matter of policy to characterize the product as a new active ingredient, it was required to make a “public interest” determination under FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(C).  When the administrative record was deemed insufficient to support this mandatory determination, the reviewing court vacated the registration. 

In the case of the new dicamba products, to grant conditional registrations for new uses of an existing active ingredient, EPA was required to determine that the new uses on DT soybeans and cotton would not “significantly increase the risk of unreasonable adverse effects on the environment” under FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(B).  The court found the record supporting this mandatory determination to be insufficient, resulting in the court’s vacatur of EPA’s decision.  These two reviewing courts have taken a relatively deep dive into the administrative record supporting a conditional registration for a new use of an existing active ingredient or a new active ingredient in evaluating whether substantial evidence in the record supports the determinations required by FIFRA.  Whether future decisions will maintain such a stringent evidentiary standard will be important to monitor.


 
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