On November 24, 2015, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Case No. 14-73353, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Respondent; EPA) filed a motion for voluntary vacatur and remand of EPA’s registration, as amended, of Dow AgroSciences LLC’s (Dow) Enlist Duo herbicide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The motion for vacatur is unusual and noteworthy to all pesticide registrants.
This case commenced in October 2014 when the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other environmental groups including the Center for Food Safety (CFS, et al.) (together, Petitioners) filed petitions for review challenging EPA’s decision to register Enlist Duo, a new product designed for use with crops genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate and 2,4,-D. Petitioners argued, in part, that EPA failed to consider the impacts of increased glyphosate use on monarch butterflies, and did not fully assess the potential human health effects from 2,4-D.
EPA’s motion reverses EPA previous position that Dow’s application for Enlist Duo satisfied the requirements for issuance of an unconditional registration under FIFRA Section 3(c)(5). EPA states that it is seeking a voluntary remand to reconsider the Enlist Duo registration in light of new information regarding potential synergistic effects referred to as “synergistic herbicidal weed control” between the two active ingredients 2,4-D and glyphosate contained in Enlist Duo on non-target plants. Specifically, EPA is in the process of evaluating information submitted to it by DAS on November 9, 2015, in response to EPA’s request for all available information related to synergistic effects. EPA asserts that none of this information was submitted to EPA prior to EPA’s issuance of the Enlist Duo registration.
EPA states that the claimed synergism could affect EPA’s “assessment of drift reduction measures for avoiding impacts to non-target organisms, including those listed as endangered.” EPA also states that it “cannot be sure, without a full analysis of the new information, that the current registration does not cause unreasonable effects to the environment, which is a requirement of the registration standard under FIFRA” and that its initial review “indicates that the 30-foot buffer included in the registration may not be adequate.”
DAS has until December 7, 2015, to file its response before the court will consider EPA’s motion to remand the registration. Although it has not completed its assessment, EPA states that if the court vacates the Enlist Duo registration, EPA will issue a cancellation order to regulate the sale, distribution, and use of existing stocks of Enlist Duo pursuant to FIFRA. This case is being considered for the March 2016 oral argument calendar but the exact date of oral argument has not been determined at this time. More information regarding this case is available in our blog items Environmental Groups File Opening Briefs Challenging EPA’s Decision to Register Enlist Duo and Ninth Circuit Denies Requests to Stay Use of Enlist Duo Herbicide During Judicial Review.
EPA’s request for remand with vacatur rather than a remand without vacatur is a severe action. EPA could have chosen to seek remand without requesting that the registration be vacated, and then demanded prompt revision of the buffer zone that EPA now believes may be inadequate to protect non-target plants from synergistic effects. EPA may have decided to send a message that there will be serious consequences when an applicant fails to submit all of the data in its possession that may be pertinent to EPA’s assessment of the statutory criteria for registration. In any case, Dow reportedly has stated that it does “not expect these issues to result in the long-term cancellation of the Enlist Duo product registration” and that Dow will “continue to prepare for commercial sales of Enlist Duo for the 2016 growing season with enthusiastic grower adoption."