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 James V. Aidala and Margaret R. Graham

On January 12, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products (Mitigation Policy) which describes methods for addressing acute risks to bees from pesticides.  EPA states that this Mitigation Policy is “more flexible and practical than the proposed policy” that was issued on May 29, 2015, and it has “made modifications to its approach with the goal of better targeting compounds that pose an acute risk, and with the goal of reducing potential impact of this effort on growers.”  EPA states that it will use its Tier 1 acute risk assessment to, in part, determine the products that trigger concerns about pollinator risk that the label restrictions are intended to address.  EPA will begin implementing this Policy in 2017 by sending letters to registrants describing steps that must be taken to incorporate the new labeling.  More information on the Mitigation Policy, including its supporting documents, and EPA’s response to comments submitted on the proposed policy, is available on www.regulations.gov under Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0818.

Also on January 12, 2017, EPA published preliminary pollinator-only risk assessments for the neonicotinoid insecticides clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, and an update to its preliminary risk assessment for imidacloprid, published in January 2016.  EPA states that the preliminary assessments for clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran are similar to the preliminary pollinator assessment for imidacloprid, in that they showed that “most approved uses do not pose significant risks to bee colonies,” but “spray applications to a few crops, such as cucumbers, berries, and cotton, may pose risks to bees that come in direct contact with residue.”  As for the updated imidacloprid assessment, EPA states that is looked at potential risks to aquatic species, and identified some risks for aquatic insects.  Interested parties will have 60 days to comment on the preliminary risk assessments after notice is published in the Federal Register.  In terms of comments, EPA states that it is especially interested in getting input from stakeholders “on the new method for assessing potential exposure and risk through pollen and nectar.”  Links to risk assessment dockets for each individual insecticide are available on EPA’s website under Schedule for Review of Neonicotinoid Pesticides.  EPA states it is hopes to release the final neonicotinoid risk assessments by mid-2018.

Commentary

The revised Mitigation Policy has been long in coming since it was first released over eighteen months ago.  The delay in revising its approach reflects the complexity of the comments submitted, and EPA’s deliberateness in more finely crafting its policies, given the passage of time and other considerations.  This revised policy contains more flexibility and explicit discussion of the need for exceptions to blanket requirements in response to some of the comments received on the earlier proposal.  There remains significant public and regulator concern about the possible impacts on pollinators from pesticide use, however, there is currently less of a manic tone to EPA’s statements and actions.

For example, when discussing how EPA will approach changing the labels of the affected universe of pesticide products, there is a much less onerous tone and no specific deadlines for registrants to submit revised labels “or else.”  (The 2013 directives to registrants included demands for thousands of revised labels to be submitted within six weeks “or else” -- EPA would take “appropriate action” under FIFRA.)  EPA reminds us all that it retains authority to impose these new requirements broadly, a statement that will strike some as regulatory overreach, but the tone and approach is more in line with past EPA “guidance” about how it will approach a new or revised regulatory concern.   

Similar to what EPA previously concluded about imidacloprid, where that assessment concluded that the most controversial use -- corn seed treatments -- did not indicate a risk concern, EPA did include in its summary about the other three neonicotinoid pesticides that:

  • The assessments for clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, similar to the preliminary pollinator assessment for imidacloprid showed:  most approved uses do not pose significant risks to bee colonies.  However, spray applications to a few crops, such as cucumbers, berries, and cotton, may pose risks to bees that come in direct contact with residue.

This might unfairly be summarized as:  after years of regulatory analysis EPA has concluded that if insecticides come into direct contact with insects, there is likely to be a risk to the exposed insect. 

This conclusion would be too simplistic since EPA and other regulatory bodies have expressed concern about what unintended exposures to insecticides might cause, and more generally the possibility of colony level impacts on honeybee and other pollinator populations from pesticide use.  Some critics will continue to insist that EPA broaden its regulatory approach to more than just pesticides used for crops under contracted pollinator services.  The broader issue of pesticide drift and possible impacts on non-target species will continue to be a concern for all pesticides.

Perhaps the more deliberate consideration of needed data generation and assessment that seems to be the current approach will allow both more refined regulatory controls if needed, and a reduction in the sometimes hot rhetoric which has accompanied the pollinator issues.

Lastly, although this revised Mitigation Policy and the three new preliminary assessments are not unexpected next steps as part of the ongoing registration review program for pesticides, given their very late release -- less than ten days before the arrival of a new Administration -- some might question whether this is part of the “midnight regulations” pushing the political agenda of the outgoing Administration.  The new leadership may revise what has been released, and may come to different conclusions about any needed restrictions.  That said, the issue of whether certain pesticides are having a dangerous impact on honeybee populations will continue to be a concern for regulators both in the U.S. and globally.


 

By Lisa R. Burchi and Lisa M. Campbell

On January 22, 2016, Ontario released for consultation a draft Health Action Plan (Plan) to reduce losses of honeybees and other pollinators caused by several “stressors” stated in the Plan to include: (1) reduced habitat and poor nutrition; (2) diseases, pests, and genetics; (3) exposure to pesticides; and (4) extreme weather and climate change.  This action plan is part of a broader strategy to protect pollinators, with Ontario’s aim, in part, to reach an 80 percent reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 2017.   Other actions taken by Ontario related to pollinators and the regulation of corn and soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoids are discussed in our blog item Canadian Province Finalizes Neonic Reduction Rule

Comments can be submitted through the Environmental Registry until March 7, 2016.

The Plan “identifies potential actions that have been informed through an ongoing consultation process with key stakeholders and the broader public.”  For each of the four stressors identified as a cause of the pollinator decline, the Plan summarizes what information Ontario has gathered, what potential actions it is considering, and what potential additional action areas exist.  With regard to the exposure to pesticides, the Plan states the following regarding potential actions for Ontario to take and additional measures under consideration.

Potential Actions by the Province:

  • Increase education and outreach activities to stakeholder groups on Best Management Practices (BMP) and integrated pest management to support the implementation of Ontario Regulation 63/09 under the Pesticides Act;
  • Support integrated pest management training for growers;
  • Enhance sector outreach to support beekeeper education around the use of appropriate pest treatments in-hive;
  • Continue to work with industry to support agricultural production and land stewardship practices that reduce pollinator pesticides exposure;
  • Explore opportunities to facilitate completion and launch of an e-tool to alert pesticide applicators of nearby beehives for the purpose of reducing bee exposures;
  • Provide financial support for producers to acquire dust deflectors for planting equipment through the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative;
  • Enhance provincial monitoring efforts to track changes in agricultural practices stemming from the implementation of Ontario Regulation 63/09; and
  • Monitor neonicotinoid concentrations in the environment.

Potential Additional Action Areas:                        

  • Profile and highlight BMPs for pesticide use in agriculture;
  • Improve beekeeper education on the effectiveness of honey bee pest treatments; and
  • Support research in selective breeding strategies for honey bees resistant to pests and diseases.

The Plan also discusses Ontario’s research and monitoring efforts, including its intent to align and leverage existing research programs and its consideration to launch a special “Call for Proposals” to “fund new pollinator health research projects to fill knowledge gaps for example, understanding how varroa infestations interact with other stressors, studying implications of climate change for Ontario’s pollinators and assessing the effectiveness of various land management practices.”

In addition to submitting comments on the Plan, Ontario also developed an online survey for input on what priorities should be the focus to improve pollinator health and what steps should be taken to improve pollinator health.


 

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

On January 6, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced the release of a preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid (Preliminary Risk Assessment or Assessment).  In its assessment, EPA states that imidacloprid potentially poses a risk to hives when the pesticide comes in contact with certain crops that attract pollinators. 

EPA coordinated efforts with Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PRMA).  PMRA simultaneously released the overview and science evaluation of its imidacloprid pollinator-only assessment, which reaches the same preliminary conclusions as set forth in EPA’s Assessment.  PMRA plans to release the complete assessment with appendices as a revised version on January 18, 2016, and to accept written comments until March 18, 2016.

EPA’s Preliminary Risk Assessment will be subject to a 60-day comment period commencing on the announcement of the Assessment in the Federal Register.  EPA did not indicate how long it will be before the Federal Register notice is issued. 

This Assessment is the first of four such assessments that will be prepared in 2016 under President Obama’s National Pollinator Strategy.  The other three assessments, for neonicotinoid insecticides clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, are scheduled to be released for public comment in December 2016.  EPA also states that following the receipt of public comments on this Assessment by December 2016, it plans to issue a revised Preliminary Ecological Risk Assessment that will: “(i) consider any comments or information submitted in response to this bee-only preliminary risk assessment; (ii) incorporate additional data EPA anticipates to receive that is relevant to bees; and, (iii) assess the potential risks of all registered uses of imidacloprid to all taxa.”

EPA’s Preliminary Risk Assessment describes how EPA conducted a screening level assessment (Tier I) for the various uses of imidacloprid, with a stepwise, tiered risk assessment approach evaluating risks to individual bees first and, if needed, risks to the colony.  EPA has divided its risk findings for honey bees for the registered use patterns of imidacloprid into three categories:  (1) Crop Groups/Use Patterns that Present Low On-Field Risk; (2) Crop Groups/Use Patterns with Uncertainty in Colony (Tier II) Assessment; and (3) Crop Groups/Use Patterns with Colony (Tier II) Risk Indicated, with this last category including “Citrus Fruits (Oranges)” and “Oilseed (Cotton).”  EPA further states:  “ased on a tri-agency analysis of the statistical and biological considerations of the data, a NOAEC and LOAEC of 25 and 50 μg a.i./L in nectar were determined based on reductions of the number of adult workers, numbers of pupae, pollen stores and honey stores which persisted across much of the study duration.  The level of imidacloprid in nectar at or below which no effects would be expected to the colony is determined to be 25 μg a.i./L.”

Additional information regarding EPA’s actions regarding neonicotinoid insecticides and the National Pollinator Strategy can be found on our blog.  EPA stated its intent to hold a webinar regarding the imidacloprid Preliminary Risk Assessment in early February 2016.  More information can be found on EPA’s website.

Commentary

EPA’s statements about the assessment have indicated that imidacloprid uses on citrus and cotton are of greatest concern.  Not included in this assessment is what, if any, specific regulatory actions might be needed to reduce any risks to an acceptable level.  Regardless, the registrants, along with other stakeholders, will almost certainly comment on the assessment (likely to say that the risks are both overestimated, according to the registrants, and underestimated, according to environmental groups).

What may be of less notice is what EPA appears to conclude about the other uses of the pesticide.  Not long ago, many claimed that significant honeybee decline was due to planting crops, especially corn, with neonicotinoid seed treatments such as imidacloprid.  This assessment appears to contradict that assertion (along with other improvements that have been made in reducing fugitive dust exposures during application).  And, even if EPA is correct in its assessment that the citrus and cotton uses are of concern, there are many other uses of imidacloprid currently suspended from the market in the European Union (EU) -- where cotton and citrus are not widely produced.  This EPA assessment might become part of the debate about the rationale behind the current EU policies.  

The documents released today are long (the assessment is 305 pages with an appendix of 212 pages).  That EPA plans to complete its assessment within this calendar year indicates that current EPA leaders want any decision to be issued (or at least be framed) before the arrival of any new Administration.  That alone will cause some to question the degree to which any actions are based more on “science and data” or on the “politics” of pollinator protection.  


 

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

In a press release issued on November 22, 2015, the Canadian province of Québec (Quebec) announced its release of Québec Pesticide Strategy 2015-2018.  Although the Strategy itself is available only in French, Québec has provided a summary of the Strategy in English, which is available here.

Québec’s press release states that the Strategy “sets out the major directions and goals that will guide government action to protect public health, pollinators, and the environment in the coming years.”  One of the ways the Strategy seeks to do this is to impose additional restrictions on the use of the "highest-risk pesticides" which the Strategy states includes atrazine, chlorpyrifos, and neonicotinoid insecticides.  To reduce use of high risk pesticides, the Strategy’s “Objectives” to be implemented through legislative and regulatory changes include:

  • Requiring agricultural application of such highest-risk pesticides to be "justified by an agronomist in advance of 100% of cases";
  • Tripling of the number of pesticides that are banned in urban environments for use on lawns and green spaces;
  • Obliging owners of golf courses that use the greatest amount of pesticides to reduce their use of the highest-risk products by 25 percent; and
  • Authorizing the "unrestricted sale of all biopesticides by all retailers" and encouraging “the application of the lowest-risk pesticides through economic incentives (levies, permits and compensation fees).”

To lower exposures, the Strategy calls for ensuring adequate qualification levels for employees that apply pesticides and increasing mandatory minimum distance when pesticides are applied near inhabited areas.

With specific regard to neonicotinoid insecticides, Québec seeks to reduce such use with the following “Objectives,” some of which overlap with the Objectives noted above for high risk pesticides:

  • Banning the use of all neonicotinoids for lawn and flower bed maintenance;
  • Requiring agricultural application of such neonicotinoids to be "justified by an agronomist in advance of 100% of cases"; and
  • Encouraging the use of seeds uncoated with neonicotinoids through economic incentives such as levies, permits, and compensation fees.

Québec also intends to obtain additional information about use of treated seeds in Quebec by requiring companies to submit reports on Québec sales of neonicotinoid-treated seeds.

Québec in its Strategy summary also describes the following specific activities it plans to undertake in 2016:

  • Amend the Pesticides Management Code to “tighten the conditions under which pesticides may be used”;
  • Modernize the Pesticides Act to incorporate coated seeds and strengthen compliance through a system of administrative penalties; and
  • Hold pesticide users accountable by “having users of highest-risk pesticides assume a greater share of associated environmental and public health costs.”

Commentary

Québec’s Strategy to impose additional restrictions on the use of the "highest-risk pesticides," including neonicotinoid insecticides, is part of its efforts following a 2011 strategy aimed at reducing the risks related to pesticide use by 25 percent by 2021.  The Canadian province of Ontario also issued final regulations in June 2015 aimed at reducing the area planted with maize and soybean seed treated with neonicotinoid insecticides as discussed in our blog item Canadian Province Finalizes Neonic Reduction Rule, although Quebec’s Strategy goes arguably farther by broadening the scope of the pesticides at issue to include atrazine and chlorpyrifos.  It remains to be seen whether different rules in different provinces will create any confusion or other regulatory issues for companies seeking to comply with these restrictions.

In the U.S., the issue of forbidding “prophylactic” use of pesticides has been raised to date primarily at the local level in a relatively few number municipalities.  Regarding pollinator issues more generally in the U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of reviewing comments it received on its “Proposal to Mitigate the Exposure to Bees from Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products” released earlier this year. The next milestone in EPA activity related to neonicotinoid pesticides is the expected release of a registration review risk assessment document for imadicloprid, a widely used neonicotinoid insecticide, before the end of the calendar year.

More information on pesticides and pollinators is available on our blog under topics "pesticides" and "pollinators."


 

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

In an opinion issued on September 10, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) unconditional registration for the pesticide sulfoxaflor and remanded the matter to EPA to obtain further studies and data regarding the effects of sulfoxaflor on bees and bee colonies.  Sulfoxaflor is a new insecticide in the class of insecticides referred to as neonicotinoids, but its mechanism of action is distinct from other neonicotinoids.  The Petitioners in this case were various trade organizations representing commercial beekeepers, as well as some individual beekeepers.  The registrant Dow AgroSciences LLC (Dow) intervened in the action.

EPA granted an unconditional registration for sulfoxaflor on May 6, 2013, subject to a variety of risk mitigation measures, including a lower application rate, longer intervals between applications, and certain crop-specific label restrictions.  EPA had previously proposed to issue a conditional registration for sulfoxaflor in January 2013, citing pollinator data gaps that could be addressed by requiring Dow to conduct and submit further studies.  Under that proposal, use of sulfoxaflor would have been allowed at a reduced application rate during the time needed to complete data development.  The court found that the subsequent decision by EPA to register unconditionally sulfoxaflor was not supported by substantial evidence, as required by Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 16(b), both because EPA failed to adhere to its own scientific methodology and because the rationale that EPA provided for granting an unconditional registration could not be reconciled with the analysis upon which EPA based its prior proposal to register conditionally sulfoxaflor.

EPA evaluated the potential risk to bees and bee colonies from sulfoxaflor use utilizing the Pollinator Risk Assessment Framework, a scientific risk assessment methodology developed after consultations between EPA, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the State of California, and presented by EPA to the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel in 2012.  The court found that the rationale provided for EPA’s unconditional registration decision could not be reconciled with findings that EPA itself made using this methodology or with the rationale EPA provided for its prior proposal to issue a conditional registration.  EPA had decided it was necessary to proceed to Tier 2 of the pollinator risk assessment after reviewing risk quotients and residue data in Tier 1 of the assessment.  EPA found the available data for Tier 2 to be insufficient to allow indefinite use of sulfoxaflor, even at a reduced application rate.  The court could not reconcile this finding with the subsequent decision to grant an unconditional registration, even with the specified mitigation measures.  The court found that “given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it.”  The court stated that “EPA has no real idea whether sulfoxaflor will cause unreasonable adverse effects on bees, as prohibited by FIFRA.”

EPA argued that with a reduced application rate, the risk quotients and residue analysis in Tier 1  was “close enough” to sufficient to avoid the specified quantitative trigger for a Tier 2 analysis, thereby rendering any deficiencies in the available Tier 2 data irrelevant.  The court effectively stated in response that close enough is not good enough, citing another recent Ninth Circuit decision in which a risk concern that is triggered by a margin of exposure less than or equal to 1000 was held to be triggered when the margin was exactly 1000.  Thus, this court once again placed EPA on notice that it must follow its own methodology with precision, and that EPA cannot justify deviations from its own methodology by simply stating that it is exercising expert judgment.

Commentary

This is an unusual case because the registration of a new pesticidal active ingredient has been vacated on substantive as opposed to procedural grounds.  The court’s rationale reflects a lack of judicial deference to what EPA typically refers to as the scientific “weight of the evidence.”  While the term itself does not appear in the opinion, the court is insisting that EPA must follow its standard methodology without allowing for any deviations based on professional judgment.  Although in this instance the court has supported the position of opponents of pesticide use, judicial reluctance to accept scientific “weight of the evidence” conclusions could also make it harder for EPA to impose additional restrictions when new but inconclusive evidence appears.

This case could cause EPA to be more explicit in adding procedures to its standard analytic methodologies that allow deviations from the methodology based on professional judgment.  The case could also cause EPA to reconsider its recent reluctance to avoid issuing conditional registrations and its preference for unconditional registrations for new active ingredients.  In any case, decisions that afford EPA less discretion to use “weight of the evidence” reasoning when basing scientific conclusions on less than conclusive data or studies could have an impact on a number of EPA practices and policies involving interpretation of scientific data.


 

By Lisa R. Burchi and Lisa M. Campbell

 

On June 16, 2015, the California Superior Court for the County of Almeda denied the petition of the Pesticide Action Network North America, et al. (PANNA) for a writ of mandate to direct the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to set aside and vacate its final decisions approving amended registrations of Dinotefuran 20SG manufactured by Mitsui Chemicals Agro and Venom manufactured by Valent USA. 

 

The active ingredient in both products at issue, dinotefuran, is a neonicotinoid pesticide that has been subject to additional reviews and labeling requirements with regard to its impact on pollinating bees on the federal and state level.  PANNA argued, in part, that under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), DPR should not have approved the amended labels because it had not developed an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) describing the potential environmental impacts, analyzing direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts, and analyzing alternatives. 

 

The court held as a matter of law that “to give effect to CEQA’s current policy goals as developed since 1979 in the Public Resources Code, in the CEQA Guidelines and in case law, that the court must read the DPR’s regulations as requiring that the DPR apply current CEQA analysis in deciding whether to register pesticides.”  That does not, however, require DPR to comply with all of CEQA’s documentation requirements; instead, DPR’s environmental documentation is required to “address only those significant adverse environmental effects that can reasonably be expected to occur, directly or indirectly, from implementing the proposal.”

 

With regard to the standard of review, the court found that DPR’s decision is in the nature of an EIR, which required the court to review the adequacy of the decision for substantial evidence, and not, as PANNA had argued, the functional equivalent of a negative declaration that would have triggered a “fair argument” review standard.  The court then found there was substantial evidence in the administrative record supporting DPR’s decision that the proposed mitigation measures will eliminate any significant environmental impact.  The court held that the record supported DPR’s assertion that the product labels provide necessary environmental protections, noting, for example, that EPA’s conclusion that the federal labeling is adequate to protect bees is substantial evidence to support DPR’s “identical conclusion.”  The court further held that DPR was not required to consider the feasibility of alternatives. 

 

Since the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) preempts a state from imposing label requirements that are different from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved label, the court noted that DPR’s decision was either to register the products consistent with EPA’s approved labels or not register the products for use in California.  Although DPR’s failure to conduct a risk-benefit analysis was not argued before the court, the decision, by way of dicta, noted that the “record suggests that the DPR conducted a de facto risk-benefit analysis and did not actually conclude that the labeling on the Insecticides would mitigate all adverse affect on bees.”  Instead, the court suggests DPR’s risk-benefit analysis was based on the fact that under FIFRA, the only alternative would be to deny the registrations and that would be infeasible considering economic, social, or other considerations. 

 

The decision is a significant judgment regarding DPR’s ability to make decisions regarding label amendments and the court’s ability to review such decisions.  It appears likely an appeal will be filed.  It is also important to note that DPR’s reevaluation of neonicotinoids is still pending -- DPR is required under AB 1789 (codified at Food and Agricultural Code Section 12838(a)) to issue a determination before July 1, 2018, regarding the neonicotinoid registrations and to adopt any control measures determined to be necessary to protect pollinator health.  


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi
 
The Canadian province of Ontario has issued its final regulations under the Ontario Pesticides Act aimed at reducing the area planted with maize and soybean seed treated with neonicotinoid insecticides.  These changes have been made as part of its broader strategy to protect pollinators, and aim to reach an 80 percent reduction in the number of hectares planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017


The new rules create a new class of pesticides, known as “Class 12 pesticides.”  This class applies to corn seed grown for grain or silage, and soybean seeds treated with the following neonicotinoid insecticides: imidacloprid; thiamethoxam; and clothianidin.  The new regulations will not apply to popping corn, sweet corn, corn used for the production of seed, or soybean seeds planted for the purpose of producing a soybean seed crop of certified status. 


The new system established by these regulations will take effect on July 1, 2015, and be phased in over time.  The elements include but are not limited to the following:

  • Integrated Pest Management Training:  The regulations will require farmers to complete training on integrated pest management methods.  To encourage participation, training will be offered for free until September 1, 2016; after that time, training will be provided at a cost.  After August 31, 2016, any person (e.g., farmer) who purchases neonicotinoid-treated seeds will be required to have completed the integrated pest management training course and received a certification number, which will be valid for five years.
  • Pest Assessment Reports: Farmers wanting to buy and plant neonicotinoid-treated seed on more than 50 percent of the total area of their corn and soybean crop will need to complete a pest assessment report and provide it to the sales representative or seed vendor from which they purchase the seeds.   
  • Requirements for Vendor Licenses for the Sale of Neonicotinoid-Treated Seeds:  The regulations will require companies selling neonicotinoid-treated seeds to obtain a treated seed vendor’s license, notify purchasers that the seed is a neonicotinoid-treated seed, and offer untreated seed for purchase, among other requirements.  Growers will only be able to buy and use neonicotinoid-treated seeds that vendors have put on the "Class 12 Pesticides List," a list updated by August of each year. 
  • Tracking of the Sale of Neonicotinoid-Treated Seeds:  The regulations will require the annual submission of the sales of treated seeds “to ensure an open and transparent system to track progress.”  The Ministry of the Environment will publicly report amalgamated sales and seed treatment data for neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed.

 
The regulations do not include requirements for the transport and storage of Class 12 pesticides.
 
Further information is available at the below links:
 

 
It is important to consider these new requirements in conjunction with those being developed in the U.S.  EPA’s approach to date in considering additional restrictions to neonicotinoid pesticides to protect pollinators appears to focus not as much on reducing the use of products, but instead on controlling and preventing unwanted exposure of pollinators to these products. 
 
In recent weeks, the U.S. government issued a “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19, and on May 28, EPA released for comment: “EPA’s Proposal to Mitigate Exposure to Bees from Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products.” 
 


 

By Timothy D. Backstrom

 

On June 12, 2015, Federal District Judge Maxine Chesney issued a decision in Ellis v. Housenger (N.D. Cal.) allowing the plaintiffs to utilize expert declarations and exhibits that were not included in the certified administrative record to support their contentions that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) improperly failed to consult the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The plaintiffs in the Ellis case are individual beekeepers and non-governmental organizations, and two out of the six claims in their complaint allege a failure by EPA to consult under the ESA before registering or adding new registered uses for products containing two neonicotinoid pesticides, clothianidin and thiamethoxam.  Judge Chesney’s order was issued in response to separate motions by EPA and by industry intervenors Bayer Crop Science, Syngenta Crop Protection, and Croplife America to preclude the plaintiffs from utilizing extra record material to support their ESA claims.

 

Although EPA and the intervenors argued that the Court’s review of the ESA claims should be confined to the administrative record based on the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Judge Chesney determined that extra record material may be used to support an allegation that an administrative agency failed to consult with the FWS as required by ESA Section 7.  The Judge based this holding on two cases decided in the Ninth Circuit, Washington Toxics Coalition v. EPA and Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink, which each held that extra record material may be properly considered in determining whether an agency improperly failed to consult under ESA Section 7.  The Judge rejected the contention by EPA and the intervenors that these two decisions were supplanted by Karup Tribe v. U.S. Forest Service, concluding that the “arbitrary and capricious” standard of review established by the APA is utilized to review the ESA claims, but the scope of review for these claims is not constrained by the APA.

 

The effect of this decision will be to allow the plaintiffs to present expert opinion and evidence concerning the claimed adverse effects of the two neonicotinoid pesticides on endangered and threatened species, including but not limited to pollinator species, that was not expressly considered by EPA when it decided to register these pesticides.  The plaintiffs will argue that such extra record material establishes that there was a sufficient basis to conclude that these pesticides “may affect” endangered or threatened species for EPA’s failure to consult FWS under the ESA to be arbitrary and capricious.  This preliminary ruling could materially affect review of the ESA counts because there is a substantial division of expert scientific opinion concerning the alleged adverse effects of neonicotinoid pesticides, and the Court may conclude that EPA did not afford adequate weight to some of this opinion.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On May 28, 2015, several United States and Canadian regulatory agencies announced the release of Regulatory Partnership Statements (RPS) and updated annual Work Plans outlining the framework for how these agencies will cooperate and coordinate specified agency actions. 

 

The RPS and Work Plans are the most recent steps since the United States and Canada established the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) in 2011 to align regulatory systems and boost North American trade and competitiveness.  Information about the RCC and the released RPSs is available at: http://www.trade.gov/rcc/.

 

There are now RPSs between the following agencies focusing on four main sectors:  agriculture and food; environment; transportation; and health and personal care products:

 

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- Health Canada (HC);
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA);
  • U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) -- HC;
  • U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) -- Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA);
  • FDA -- CFIA;
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) -- Transport Canada (TC);
  • U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) -- TC;
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- TC;
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) -- Natural Resources Canada (NRCan);
  • U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) -- NRCan;
  • EPA -- Environment Canada (EC); and
  • U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) -- Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

 

With regard to agreements between EPA and PMRA for pesticides, the agencies have agreed to a plan and timeframes for three initiatives:

 

  • Joint Template For Project Chemistry Review:  The agencies plan, by March 2016, to commence use of a joint template for product chemistry reviews intended to present study findings in a concise, easily reviewable manner to “facilitate the evaluation of joint review products for new active ingredients, use expansions, and product chemistry only submissions, with the ultimate goal being mutual acceptance of study reviews.”  Prior to commencing use of the joint template, EPA and PMRA intend to conduct a webinar, solicit comments, and initiate a pilot project to test the use of the template. 
  • Neonicotinoid Insecticides:  EPA and PMRA are collaborating on a bilateral pesticide re-evaluation process for neonicotinoid pesticides, and implementing a risk assessment framework.  Harmonizing re-evaluation schedules and aligning risk assessment approachines are ongoing; a progress report will be published by December 2015, but the completion of risk assessments and mitigation actions are not expected until 2017-2018.
  • Joint IT Solutions:  EPA and PRMA are working together to develop information technology submissions and “move towards the establishment of a single application for crop protection products that will be accepted in both countries.”  The technology platforms include an eDossier Builder based on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Global Harmonized Submission Transport Standard and an Electronic Confidential Statement of Product Specifications Form Wizard tool (eCSPS Wizard).  The agencies are currently developing these tools and state that the eDossier may be released in 2017, but have not set timeframes for the release of the eCSPS Wizard.

 

EPA, Health Canada, and Environment Canada also have a RPS regarding two initiatives for chemical substances management:

 

  • Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) and Significant New Activity (SNAc):  The agencies are collaborating to develop common approaches for regulatory reporting requirements to improve predictability, understanding, and compliance of SNURs and SNAcs under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), respectively.  Working groups have been established with representatives of industries and nongovernmental organizations, and several meetings and web conferences are scheduled through June 2016 to review potential alignment collaboration opportunities.  A final summary document outlining the agencies’ findings, recommendations, and short and long term implementation plans is expected by December 2016.  A workshop to discuss the final results for both predictability and improved compliance is now planned for January 2017.
  • Risk Assessments:  The agencies are working to align chemical regulatory processes, “specifically through the development of common approaches to address emerging risk issues and jointly consider how the use of novel data can inform the assessment of chemicals.”  The agencies have already formed a Technical Working Group and the first workshop will be held in October 2015 with several web conferences scheduled through December 2016.  A draft assessment collaboration framework will thereafter be developed including:  (1) common high-level principles for chemical risk assessment; (2) identification of opportunities and impediments to joint work; (3) forward plan to build on opportunities (e.g., peer review); and (4) forward plan to explore mechanisms to address impediments.  The final summary document outlining the assessment collaboration framework is expected in December 2017


Discussion

 

The RPS developments are a welcome development for many in industry that conduct business in the U.S. and Canada and are interested in streamlined procedures.  The SNUR and SNAc processes, for example, have many similarities that could potentially be leveraged and aligned.  The working groups that have been formed to review and discuss the TSCA/CEPA initiatives anticipate industry and nongovernmental organizations’ involvement that should assist these agency partnerships.  Continued work with stakeholders and opportunities for comment will be critical moving forward in developing effective regulatory approaches that promote efficiency, safety, trade, and competitiveness.


 

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

 

On May 22, 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a call for new scientific information relevant to the evaluation of the risk to bees in the European Union (EU) from the use of the three neonicotinoid pesticide active substances:  clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam (the substances).

 

The call for data complies with the decision taken by the European Commission in May 2013, Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 485/2013, to put in place measures to restrict the use of the substances, which at the time included prohibiting use of the active substances clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid as a seed or soil treatment and for pre-flowering applications on crops attractive to bees and for cereals other than winter cereals.  In May 2013, the Commission also stated that within two years it would initiate a review of any new scientific information. 

 

EFSA is urging national authorities, research institutions, industry, and other interested parties to submit all information on the effects, exposure, and risks of the three substances regarding bees -- honeybees, bumble bees, and solitary bees -- when used as seed treatments and granules.  This can include:

 

  • Literature data, including grey literature and any other data from research activities relevant to the risk assessment for bees for the uses of the three substances applied as seed treatments and granules.  Data that have been provided and identified as relevant by EFSA in its published systematic literature review report need not be submitted, however.
  • Study reports conducted specifically to assess the risk to bees from the three substances applied as seed treatments and granules, and not yet considered under the previous EFSA assessments (EFSA Journal 2013;11(1):  3066, 3067, 3068).
  • National evaluations and/or monitoring data relevant to the risk assessment for bees for the uses of the three substances applied as seed treatments and granules that are available at the Competent Authorities of Member States and not yet considered under the previous EFSA assessments, listed in the above bullet.
  • Data that EFSA stated were not relevant in its published systematic literature review report may be submitted only if accompanied with a scientific rationale supporting their relevance.

 

The notice states that all information should be submitted by September 30, 2015.  Any information submitted can be claimed as confidential by following procedures set forth in Article 63 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009.  EFSA will review the material provided from this call for data and offer conclusions concerning an updated risk assessment following receipt of a follow-up mandate from the European Commission.

 

 


 
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