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 Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on February 12, 2020, that it is seeking public input on a proposal to incorporate a new nanosilver pesticide product into textiles to combat odors, discoloration, and other signs of wear.  The proposed registration decision is for NSPW Nanosilver, and the proposed pesticide product, Polyguard-NSPW Master Batch (Polyguard), will be incorporated into textiles to suppress bacteria, algae, fungus, mold, and mildew, which cause odors, discoloration, stains, and deterioration.  According to EPA, based on its human health and ecological risk assessment, it has preliminarily determined that the new active ingredient in Polyguard meets the regulatory standard under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for use as a materials preservative in textiles.  EPA invites public comment on its proposal and preliminary findings.  Comments are due March 13, 2020.  More information is available in Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2020-0043

EPA notes that NSPW Nanosilver was the active ingredient in a previous conditional registration that it granted in 2015, for use as a materials preservative in textiles and plastics.  As reported in our May 31, 2017, memorandum, that decision was challenged, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit “vacated it on grounds that EPA’s public interest finding for granting the registration was without support in the record.”  EPA states that the currently proposed product “is solely for use in specified textiles; therefore, Polyguard will have a more limited use authorization than the previously vacated conditional registration.”  EPA notes that Polyguard will be formulated as a master batch, meaning that NSPW Nanosilver would be embedded within plastic beads or pellets, in contrast to the previous product registration, which was in the form of a liquid suspension.


 

By Timothy D. Backstrom

On February 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of an interim registration review decision for glyphosate.  EPA previously issued a proposed interim registration review decision (PID) for glyphosate for comment in April 2019.  At the time EPA issued the glyphosate PID for comment, EPA also issued a draft human health risk assessment and a preliminary ecological risk assessment for glyphosate.  After reviewing the comments received concerning these assessments, EPA has not made any revisions to either assessment.  EPA has determined that there are no dietary, residential, bystander, or occupational human health risks of concern associated with glyphosate use.   EPA has also determined that there are some potential risks to plants, birds, mammals, and invertebrates from glyphosate use, but that these can be appropriately mitigated by label changes requiring enforceable spray drift management measures and adding a warning concerning the potential hazards to non-target organisms.  EPA also has proposed some new measures to manage the development and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds.  EPA has generally retained the proposed labeling changes identified in the PID, except for some modest adjustments to the proposed language concerning droplet size restrictions and swath displacement restrictions for aerial applications, and removal of spray drift advisory language for airblast application.

Despite considerable publicity recently concerning purported carcinogenic risks for glyphosate, including allegations that human exposure to glyphosate can be linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, EPA has determined that glyphosate is not likely to be a human carcinogen and has steadfastly adhered to this basic conclusion.  EPA made this determination for glyphosate after convening a meeting of the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate in 2016.

The general purposes of the PID process are to allow EPA to move forward with aspects of the registration review process that are essentially complete, and to adopt interim risk mitigation measures, even though some of the actions required prior to a final registration review decision are not yet complete.  As in the case of most recent PIDs, EPA states that it has not yet made a complete determination concerning potential effects or any required consultation for glyphosate under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), nor has it made a determination for glyphosate under the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP).  In addition, EPA is considering a pending petition to prohibit preharvest use of glyphosate on oats, and to reduce the tolerance for glyphosate in oats, that was filed in 2018 by the Environmental Working Group and others.  This petition is predicated on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate.  Finally, EPA is still evaluating the question of whether additional data will be needed to evaluate properly the potential effects of glyphosate use on pollinators.  

More information on glyphosate and EPA’s interim registration review decision is available here.

Commentary

EPA's interim registration review decision for glyphosate is predicated on EPA's prior determination that the best available scientific data do not substantiate the claims that glyphosate may be a human carcinogen.  As discussed above, the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate was thoroughly evaluated by the FIFRA SAP in 2016.  EPA's determination after that review that glyphosate is not a carcinogen has also been supported by other pesticide regulatory authorities.  Nonetheless, EPA's view conflicts with a cancer classification decision for glyphosate by the World Health Organization (WHO), and with some recent tort case decisions that were based on the premise that there is a credible linkage between glyphosate exposure and human cancer.  EPA recently announced that it would not permit or approve any cancer warning statements for inclusion in glyphosate labeling (including any statements that may be required pursuant to California's Prop 65) because EPA believes that such statements are false or misleading and would therefore cause the pesticides to be "misbranded."

It appears probable there will be continued litigation based on the purported carcinogenicity of glyphosate, along with various proposals to ban or restrict glyphosate use.  The pending petition to restrict use of glyphosate on oats that was filed by EWG, et al., is expressly predicated on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate, so it appears probable that this petition will ultimately be denied by EPA.  Nonetheless, unless WHO decides to reverse or modify its classification determination, or the courts determine that the recent tort awards for glyphosate users cannot be scientifically substantiated, the battles over the claimed carcinogenicity of glyphosate may persist for years.

More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog under keyword glyphosate.


 

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

On January 29, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has activated its Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides (Guidance) in response to the discovery of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses cause numerous illnesses, from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).  First identified in Wuhan, China, the 2019-nCoV coronavirus is a new strain that had not been previously seen in humans.

EPA developed its Guidance in 2016 to address emerging pathogens.  Under this Guidance, EPA provides pesticide registrants with a voluntary “two-stage process to enable use of certain EPA-registered disinfectant products against emerging viral pathogens not identified on the product label.”  These pathogens may not be identified on a label because the occurrence of emerging viral pathogens is less common and predictable than established pathogens and because the pathogens are often unavailable commercially and standard methods for laboratory testing may not exist.  EPA’s intent is for the Guidance to “expedite the process for registrants to provide useful information to the public” regarding products that may be effective against emerging viral pathogens associated with certain human or animal disease outbreaks.  Registrants with a pre-qualified emerging viral pathogen designation can include an efficacy statement in technical literature distributed to health care facilities, physicians, nurses, public health officials, non-label-related websites, consumer information services, and social media sites.  Additional information on the Guidance is available here and here.

EPA will likely work closely with registrants as they take steps to use these procedures to make claims related to coronavirus.  EPA notes that coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, meaning they are one of the easiest to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product, and thus using such products could help to limit the spread of these viruses.  Registrants that do not meet the criteria set forth in this Guidance yet make claims related to the coronavirus could face enforcement action for selling or distributing misbranded pesticides.  EPA states that it is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify and address 2019-nCoV in a timely manner and will continue to monitor developments closely.

Information on the coronavirus is available on CDC’s website.


 

By Heather F. Collins, M.S.

The March 1, 2020, deadline for all establishments, foreign and domestic, that produce pesticides, devices, or active ingredients to file their annual production for the 2019 reporting year is fast approaching.  Pursuant to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 7 (7 U.S.C. § 136e), “any producer operating an establishment registered [under Section 7] shall inform the Administrator within 30 days after it is registered of the types and amounts of pesticides and, if applicable, active ingredients used in producing pesticides” and this information “shall be kept current and submitted to the Administrator annually as required.” 

Reports must be submitted on or before March 1 annually for the prior year’s production.  The report, filed through the submittal of EPA Form 3540-16:  Pesticide Report for Pesticide-Producing and Device-Producing Establishments, must include the name and address of the producing establishment; and pesticide production information such as product registration number, product name, and amounts produced and distributed.  The annual report is always required, even when no products are produced or distributed.

EPA has created the electronic reporting system to submit pesticide producing establishment reports using the Section Seven Tracking System (SSTS).  Users will be able to use SSTS within EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) to submit annual pesticide production reports.  Electronic reporting is efficient, it saves time by making the process faster, and saves money in mailing costs and/or courier delivery and related logistics.

Link to EPA Form 3540-16, as well as instructions on how to report, and how to add and use EPA’s SSTS electronic filing system are available below.

Further information is available on EPA’s website.


 

By Timothy D. Backstrom

On January 9, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) announced the launch of a new website created in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that provides information about actions the federal government is taking to oversee the development of agricultural biotechnology products.  This “one-stop-shop” website was created under the direction of Executive Order (EO) “Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products.”

EPA regulates biotechnology-based pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and residues from such pesticides under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).  EPA also regulates under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) certain new microorganisms that are not subject to regulation under other statutes.  USDA regulates certain new biotechnology products under the Plant Protection Act (PPA), including agricultural crops that have been modified to be resistant to conventional pesticides.  FDA regulates the safety of human and animal foods produced using biotechnology, including genetically modified agricultural crops and animals, and the safety of drugs and human biologics produced with biotechnology, under the FFDCA.

The website, The Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation, describes the federal review process for biotechnology products, outline’s each agency’s role in regulating biotechnology products, and allows users to submit questions to the three agencies.  EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states that the new website “will help provide regulatory certainty and clarity to our nation’s farmers and producers by bringing together information on the full suite of actions the Trump Administration is taking to safely reduce unnecessary regulations and break down barriers for these biotechnology products in the marketplace.”

Commentary

In recent years, a number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) have raised concerns regarding the risks from products that have been genetically modified using biotechnology, including agricultural crops that have been genetically modified to improve pesticide or disease resistance, and agricultural animals that have been genetically modified to enhance food production.  In some instances, farmers have also expressed concern that crops with novel traits may exchange genetic information with other plant strains or species.  Implicit in all of this criticism is a presumption that the agencies with regulatory jurisdiction over these novel organisms have not adequately prevented or mitigated the risks associated with biotechnology.

In contrast, proponents of biotechnology have complained that regulatory requirements imposed by the responsible agencies have stifled useful innovation and have requested relief from regulatory requirements that they contend have impeded or slowed introduction of new products of agricultural biotechnology.  The Executive Order that underlies the new website seeks to streamline the administrative process for introducing novel agricultural products without increasing potential risks of biotechnology.

Additional information on how EPA regulates biotechnology products is available here.


 

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 M. Campbell and Heather F. Collins, M.S.

On August 28, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web resource for the Series 810 – Product Performance Test Guidelines: Antimicrobial Efficacy Test Guidelines.  As of August 28, 2019, efficacy testing should be in compliance with the following Product Performance Test Guidelines published by EPA in February 2018:

  • 810.2000: General Considerations for Testing Public Health Antimicrobial Pesticides, Guide for Efficacy Testing;
  • 810.2100: Sterilants, Sporicides, and Decontaminants, Guide for Efficacy Testing; and
  • 810.2200: Disinfectants for Use on Environmental Surfaces, Guide for Efficacy Testing.

The guidelines provide recommendations for the design and execution of laboratory studies to evaluate the effectiveness of antimicrobial pesticides against public health microbial pests.  83 Fed. Reg. 8666.  EPA states that these FAQs “provide prompt and transparent guidance to all applicants regarding commonly asked questions concerning the 810 guidelines updated in February 2018.”

With the exception of confirmatory testing (as described under OCSPP guideline 810.2000, Section (B)(7)), all studies initiated on or after August 28, 2019, should be in compliance with the 2018 revised guidelines for testing.  The study initiation date is defined under 40 CFR Part 160.3 as the date the protocol is signed by the study director.  Studies that were initiated prior to the implementation date but submitted to EPA for review after the implementation date may use either the previous 2012 version of the guidelines or the 2018 revised guidelines, as appropriate. EPA states that it “intends to address confirmatory testing through a separate guidance, which will be made available for public comment prior to finalization.”

The FAQs include general testing questions and questions related to each specific guideline.  The appendices to the FAQs include examples of label use-directions for dilutable products, repeat testing guidance with example scenarios, and sample virucidal calculations.

There has been some concern in the regulated community regarding the need for clarification on the guidelines before they became effective.  EPA’s new FAQs are intended to provide these clarifications, but the timing of their issuance may be of concern to some.  Also of interest is whether additional FAQs will be issued in the future.


 

By Jason E. Johnston

On August 27, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that makes several changes to the current “Crop Group 19:  Herbs and Spices Group.”  This latest proposal, which is the fifth in a series of crop group amendments, was created in response to a petition developed by the International Crop Group Consulting Committee (ICGCC) workgroup that was submitted by the Interregional Research Project Number 4 (IR-4).  The goals of the crop group amendment program include reducing regulatory burden, coordination with international definitions, and removing barriers to trade.  The major components of this proposal are revision of the commodity definition for marjoram; addition of three new commodity definitions for basil, edible flowers, and mint; and replacement of the existing “Crop Group 19:  Herbs and Spices Group” with two new crop groups, “Crop Group 25:  Herb Group” and “Crop Group 26:  Spice Group.”  Recognizing that the existing combined Crop Group 19 Herb and Spice Group has limited the establishment of crop group tolerances, EPA has proposed creating the two new separate crop groups to benefit herb and spice growers.  The new crop groups are quite large, containing 317 herb commodities in Crop Group 25 and 166 spice commodities in Crop Group 26.  The proposal specifies all commodities in the new crop groups (and the subgroups therein, i.e., 25A and 25B for fresh herbs and dried herbs) and provides updated representative commodities for each crop group and subgroup.

The Federal Register notice requests that comments on the proposal be submitted on or before October 28, 2019.  The public can submit comments at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2006-0766.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On August 7, 2019, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Pesticide Action Network North America, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other petitioners (Petitioners) filed a new petition in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking judicial review of United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) orders denying their request that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos.  On August 8, 2019, New York, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia (States) also filed a new petition for judicial review concerning the refusal of EPA to ban chlorpyrifos.  The Petitioners and the States seek judicial review of the July 18, 2019, final order by EPA dismissing all objections to the initial decision by EPA to retain tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos, and of EPA’s March 29, 2017, order that initially denied a 2007 petition to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos.

The Petitioners and the States also seek consolidation of their newly filed petitions for judicial review with currently pending chlorpyrifos litigation in LULAC, et al. v. Wheeler, et al.  As part of rehearing in the LULAC case, the Ninth Circuit vacated a prior decision that ordered EPA to cancel chlorpyrifos registrations, and instead issued a writ of mandamus requiring EPA to respond to objections to the 2017 denial order within 90 days.  EPA then issued the July 18, 2019, order denying all objections, along with a motion on July 19, 2019, to dismiss the LULAC case as moot.  EPA seeks dismissal of LULAC because it contends that the 2017 initial order was never itself reviewable, and EPA has now done everything that the writ of mandamus required. The Petitioners oppose the motion to dismiss because it would require the Court to take a position on a jurisdictional issue which they contend was not decided during rehearing.  The Petitioners and the States also argue that dismissal would be unnecessary and inefficient, requiring the challenging parties to reconstitute the record for review compiled in LULAC.

Petitioners also note that the Ninth Circuit retained jurisdiction when it issued mandamus in LULAC, and they request that their combined challenge to the EPA decision to retain the existing tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos be heard by the Court en banc as well.

Commentary

The latest petitions for judicial review of EPA’s 2019 decision to retain all tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos pending registration review were anticipated by all parties, and all parties agree that the procedural requisites for a judicial determination concerning the legality of EPA’s final decision to deny the 2007 administrative petition have now been satisfied.  The Petitioners and the States will likely argue that prior scientific determinations by EPA, including EPA analysis of epidemiology studies that purport to establish a link between exposure to chlorpyrifos and adverse neurodevelopmental effects in children, require that EPA proceed to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos, while EPA will likely argue that difficult scientific issues concerning chlorpyrifos remain unresolved and should be addressed by EPA as part of the pending registration review for chlorpyrifos.

In addition to the dispute about combining the new petitions for review with the LULAC case, an interesting element of the latest filing by the Petitioners is that they attempt to bootstrap en banc review of the 2019 order in which EPA finally denied the administrative petition to revoke tolerances and cancel registrations for chlorpyrifos.  En banc review for an initial hearing (as opposed to en banc rehearing in a previously decided case) is allowed by the applicable appellate rules, but such review is disfavored and would be highly unusual.  Petitioners argue that it is warranted here because the en banc panel in the rehearing in the LULAC case reserved jurisdiction.  Given the motion by EPA to dismiss the LULAC case as moot, it can be presumed that EPA is likely to oppose this vicarious argument for en banc judicial review.   EPA can argue that the only reason the en banc panel retained jurisdiction was to assure that EPA would timely comply with the writ of mandamus that required EPA to rule on the objections within 90 days.

For further information on the long history of litigation concerning the petition to ban chlorpyrifos, please review our prior blog entries.


 

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

On July 12, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a Decision Memorandum that it has registered new uses and restored previously registered uses for sulfoxaflor.  EPA has approved the use of sulfoxaflor on alfalfa, corn, cacao, grains (millet, oats), pineapple, sorghum, teff, teosinte, tree plantations, and restored the uses on citrus cotton, cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, watermelons, some gourds), soybeans, and strawberries.  EPA states that substantial data show that when sulfoxaflor is used according to the label, it poses no significant risk to human health and poses a lower risk to non-target wildlife, including pollinators, than other registered alternative products.  EPA’s registration decision is available at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0889-0570.

EPA’s decision follows an opinion issued on September 10, 2015, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacating EPA’s 2013 unconditional registration for the pesticide sulfoxaflor, and remanding the matter to EPA to obtain further studies and data regarding the effects of sulfoxaflor on bees and bee colonies.  That decision is discussed in our blog item available here. In response to that decision, EPA also issued a cancellation order that included provisions for the disposition of existing stocks of sulfoxaflor products.

After the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, EPA reevaluated the data and on October 14, 2016, approved sulfoxaflor end-use registrations for limited uses that did not include crops that attract bees.  EPA also has been granting emergency exemptions for sulfoxaflor since 2012, with the most recent emergency exemptions granted on June 17, 2019, for the use of sulfoxaflor to control tarnished plant bugs on cotton in 12 states, and to control sugarcane aphids on sorghum in 14 states.

In the July 12, 2019, decision adding new uses, restoring previous uses, and removing certain application restrictions, EPA states an unconditional registration under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 3(c)(5) for new uses of sulfoxaflor is backed by substantial data, including numerous pollinator studies submitted by the registrant, Dow AgroSciences (DAS).  With specific regard to sulfoxaflor’s impact on bees, EPA states the following:

Since the vacatur in 2015, DAS has submitted numerous additional pollinator studies. The pollinator data requirements listed in 40 CFR 158.630 have all been submitted or waived. EPA’s risk assessment process for pollinators has evolved since those data requirements were promulgated and now EPA generally assesses risks to bees using a three-tier process based on a more robust data set as described in two guidance documents: “Guidance for Assessing the Risks of Pesticides to Bees” (USEPA 2014) and “Guidance on Exposure and Effects Testing for Assessing Risks to Bees” (USEPA 2016). For sulfoxaflor, all Tier I data have been submitted. Three additional Tier II semi-field (tunnel) studies and two colony feeding studies have been submitted. Pollen and nectar residue data have been submitted for multiple crops. The submitted data covers all of the requested use patterns. For those crops that did not have data specific to pollen and nectar residues, data was extrapolated as appropriate from other crops. All regulatory data requirements for assessing pollinators have now been addressed and the EPA has adequate data to demonstrate that there will be no unreasonable adverse effects to honey bees resulting from the expanded registration of sulfoxaflor.

EPA’s decision also removes previously imposed application restrictions:

  • Removed the prohibition of use on crops grown for seed because EPA believes pollinator protection restrictions, including low use rates, will be in place regardless of whether the crop is grown for seed or for commodity harvest;
  • Removed the restriction to post-bloom application for bee-attractive crops only when there is low risk or limited potential for exposure to bees;
  • Removed the 12-foot buffer requirement because EPA believes the spray drift mitigation requirements on labels are adequate to limit drift; and
  • Removed the 2016 restriction against tank mixing because EPA states data show that there is no additional risk when sulfoxaflor is tank mixed with other compounds.

EPA’s decision includes the following crop specific restrictions:

  • Citrus: Only one application is allowed per year between 3 days before bloom and until after petal fall.
  • Ornamentals: Only one application is allowed during bloom, and that bloom must not exceed a rate of 0.071 lb ai/acre.
  • Pome Fruit, Stone Fruit, Tree Nuts and Pistachio: No application is allowed any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall.
  • Small Fruit Vine Climbing and Low Growing Berry, Tree Plantations: No application is allowed any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall.

EPA found that the FIFRA standard for registration is met for the registration of sulfoxaflor on the uses approved, and that the benefits of these uses outweigh the risks, but also set specific label requirements including restrictions to minimize potential exposure to bees:

  • Worker Protection:  “Applicators and other handlers must wear: Long-sleeved shirt and long pants, shoes plus socks, protective eyewear” and “Do not enter or allow worker entry into treated areas during the restricted entry interval (REI) of” 24 hours (for Transform WG label) and 12 hours (for Closer SC label).
  • Environmental Hazards Statement:  “This product is highly toxic to bees and other pollinating insects exposed to direct treatment or to residues in/on blooming crops or weeds. Protect pollinating insects by following label directions intended to minimize drift and reduce pesticide risk to these organisms.”
  • The RT25 (how long foliar residues of sulfoxaflor exhibit toxicity to honey bees):  “The RT25 for this product is less than or equal to 3 hours.”
  • Directions for Use:  “Notifying known beekeepers within 1 mile of the treatment area 48 hours before the product is applied will allow them to take additional steps to protect their bees. Also, limiting application to times when managed bees and native pollinators are least active, e.g. 2 hours prior to sunset or when the temperature is below 50°F at the site of application will minimize risk to bees.”

Commentary

This new decision by EPA may finally be the culmination of a long and convoluted process to register sulfoxaflor.  The litigation that resulted in vacatur of the initial registrations began in 2013.  At the time the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in 2015, vacatur was viewed by many observers as a novel and radical response to an EPA decision to register a new pesticide.  Since that time, registrants and users of newly approved active ingredients have encountered more aggressive litigation in which vacatur is often cited as a possible remedy.  This has created more uncertainty and concern about product availability, even after EPA approves an eagerly anticipated new product to meet a pressing pest control need.  In the case of sulfoxaflor, EPA has clearly determined that the data submitted by DAS demonstrate that any risks to pollinators presented by sulfoxaflor will be less than the risks presented by currently registered insecticides sulfoxaflor is likely to replace. This determination concerning relative risk based on review of additional data should address the deficiencies in the EPA rationale found by the Court when it vacated the 2013 sulfoxaflor registrations.

Interestingly, the current EPA decision may raise a similar issue concerning the sufficiency of EPA’s rationale concerning the effects of sulfoxaflor on endangered species.  EPA states the following in its Decision Memorandum:

Endangered Species

EPA has not made an effects determination for sulfoxaflor. EPA is currently focusing most of its resources for assessing impacts to listed species on its registration review program for currently registered pesticides. EPA believes that, as a general matter, older pesticides present a greater degree of risk to listed species than most new chemistries, including sulfoxaflor, and that it is therefore environmentally preferable in most circumstances for EPA to assess the impacts of existing pesticides sooner in the process than newer pesticides that are designed to compete with more risky alternatives. EPA believes that is especially true for sulfoxaflor, where the alternatives include organophosphates, neonicotinoids and pyrethroids. As a result, EPA does not believe the environment or the public would be best served by delaying the registration of new uses for sulfoxaflor to complete consultation. Focusing the limited resources of EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service on completing a consultation on the effects of sulfoxaflor would by necessity come at the expense of putting more resources into evaluating – and consequently regulating, where appropriate – what EPA believes to be more toxic compounds, that, among other things, pose greater risk, to endangered species than does sulfoxaflor.

While it is clearly sensible for EPA and the Services to prioritize the limited resources available to make and to consult concerning effects determinations for endangered species by addressing existing pesticide classes that are likely to present the greatest risk before products with new chemistries that are intended to be more selective, it remains to be seen whether reviewing courts will be inclined to accept this type of rationale.  In particular, it will be interesting to see whether the sufficiency of this approach to endangered species determinations becomes an issue in any future litigation regarding sulfoxaflor or other newly registered active ingredients.


 
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