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

Center for Food Safety v. EPA is a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (9th Circuit) that consolidates two petitions for review of a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to register the new herbicide product Enlist Duo for use in six Midwestern states. A group of non-governmental organizations filed one of the petitions and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a separate petition. Enlist Duo combines the active ingredients glyphosate and 2,4-D. The registrant Dow AgroSciences (Dow) has intervened in the case. The petitioners focus primarily on the purported failure of EPA to consider properly the effects of Enlist Duo on certain endangered species.

Each petitioner has now filed a motion to stay the EPA action registering Enlist Duo due to Endangered Species Act (ESA) challenges. The first stay motion filed by NRDC is based primarily on the risk to monarch butterflies, and that stay motion has now been fully briefed. The other petitioners filed a separate stay motion focusing on whooping cranes and Indiana bats, but they waited until two weeks after EPA and Dow filed their briefs opposing the first stay motion. Before either stay motion was filed, Dow filed a motion seeking transfer of the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Arguing that the two independent successive stay motions were abusive, Dow later filed a motion to hold the briefing on the second stay motion in abeyance, pending a ruling on its transfer motion.

The 9th Circuit denied Dow’s motion to hold the briefing on the second stay motion in abeyance only three days later. This procedural ruling does not dispose of the underlying transfer motion, but it does suggest that the court is not inclined to transfer the case. If the case is not transferred, the court will ultimately consider and rule on both pending stay motions. The court’s interim order does not suggest how it views the pending stay motions. The petitioners have a heavy burden to show both a substantial likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable harm to obtain the requested interim relief. EPA and Dow contend that the petitioners have not established either of these things. Overall, this ESA challenge to a new genetically modified organism (GMO) product may indicate a new front in the ESA litigation arena, since new products have generally not been challenged under ESA requirements. 2,4,-D itself is not a new herbicide, so this case is not quite a challenge to a totally new active ingredient; such a challenge was made recently in the case of cyantraniliprole. CBD, et al. v. EPA, No. 14-00942 (D.D.C. filed Oct. 10, 2014). Challenges to new active ingredients and GMO products, however, could threaten to hinder the introduction of new products into the marketplace.