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By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On April 30, 2018, the U.S. District Court for D.C. issued a memorandum opinion that sets forth the reasons for its denial of defendant Monsanto Company’s (Monsanto) motion to dismiss in a case in which the plaintiffs allege that certain glyphosate label claims violate the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (DCCPPA) (Opinion).  The order denying Monsanto’s motion to dismiss was issued on March 31, 2018, but did not provide any substantive discussion as to why it was denied, only that a statement that the reasons would be provided in 30 days. 

Plaintiffs Beyond Pesticides, et al.’s amended complaint alleges that under the DCCPPA “the claim that Roundup targets an enzyme ‘found in plants but not in people or pets’ is false and misleading because that enzyme ‘is found in people and pets’” (emphasis in original), because, plaintiffs assert, “glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, targets an enzyme that exists in ‘gut bacteria’ found in humans and other mammals.” The amended complaint additionally alleges that Monsanto “is aware that its labels and advertising are false … but continues to repeat this claim because ‘consumers are more likely to buy -- and will pay more for -- weed killer formulations that do not affect people and animals.’” 

Monsanto’s motion to dismiss, filed on July 10, 2017, stated that plaintiffs’ “claims are time-barred, that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim because the statement at issue is not false or misleading, and that Plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by [the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)].” 

The Opinion outlines the reasons for the court’s conclusion that the claims are not time-barred, at least for purposes of deciding the motion to dismiss.  The Opinion states, in response to some of the arguments that the claims were time-barred, that the court has “little trouble concluding that Plaintiffs’ claims are not time-barred in their entirety,” and that Monsanto is “entitled to renew its argument that some portion of Plaintiff’s claims are time-barred at the summary judgment stage.” 

With regard to the court’s decision that plaintiffs “have adequately pleaded a claim” that Roundup’s label is false or misleading under the DCCPPA, the Opinion states:   “Roundup supposedly targets an enzyme that is not found in people or animals, but that enzyme is, in fact, found in their gut bacteria.”  Moreover, the Court notes that “even if the statement on Roundup’s label is not ‘literally false,’ Plaintiffs have also alleged that it is also misleading.”  For these reasons, the Opinion states, the Court “cannot conclude that ‘no reasonable person would be deceived’ by the Roundup label, such that dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims would be appropriate.” 

Perhaps of most interest is the Opinion’s discussion of the preemption claim in light of the fact that the claims at issue are claims approved on multiple occasions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of its approval of the label.  The Opinion states that “Plaintiffs’ claims are not preempted because the DCCPPA, as it relates to pesticide labels, does not impose a broader or different obligation than FIFRA.”  Rather, “[‌u]nder both statutes, false or misleading statements on a pesticide label are proscribed.”  The Opinion cites the Supreme Court case Bates v. Dow Agrosciences LLC, 544 U.S. 431 (2005) in stating that “the question is not whether the statute reaches conduct beyond such labeling,” but “whether the statute ‘impose[s] a labeling requirement that diverges from those set out in FIFRA and its implementing regulations’” (emphasis in original).  Moreover, the Opinion finds that a request for declaratory relief is not “functionally a requirement that the company change its label.”  Instead, the Opinion distinguishes between the declaration that plaintiffs seek, that Monsanto’s label violates the DCCPPA, and an injunction stating that the declaratory relief requested “would not require Monsanto to change its label, even though it might well ‘induce’ it to do so” (emphasis in original).  The Court found that for this reason the requested relief is not preempted by FIFRA.

Registrants should pay attention to the potential implications of this case, and others like it, particularly with regard to label claims that EPA has approved.  More information on other glyphosate issues is available on our blog.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On March 8, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its release of final guidance clarifying where first aid statements should appear on the label of pesticide products.  EPA also posted a response to public comments.  Links to the final guidance and to the response to public comments documents are below:

EPA states that it was prompted to develop this guidance when it learned “that there was a discrepancy in how the ‘location of first aid statement,’ per [40 C.F.R. Section 156.68(d)] is interpreted by EPA and those in the pesticide registrant community.”  EPA notes that its review and approval of pesticide labeling is generally of a “master” label and thus does not always include a review of the location or placement of specific language on a label.

On December 7, 2016, EPA posted a memorandum for public comment entitled “EPA’s Guidance for Pesticide Registrants on Location of the First Aid Statement and Clarification on Definition of Label ‘Panel’ per 40 CFR 156.68” to clarify the interpretation of the term “panel” in the context of 40 C.F.R. 156.68 and to clarify where first aid statements must appear on pesticide labels, based on their Toxicity Category.

In its final guidance, EPA states it “will continue to require that Toxicity Category I products have the first aid statements on the front panel except in cases where a variation has been approved.”  Further, based on comments received and the wide reliance by the regulated community on the interpretation that “any panel” includes inside panels, EPA is changing its position from its 2016 memorandum and now “will not require Toxicity Category II and III products to bear the first aid statements on a visible front, back or side panel.” 

EPA also listed three recommendations for registrants to consider when printing their container labels:

  1. For Toxicity Category I products, EPA strongly recommends that registrants consider placing duplicative first aid language on the very back page of the booklet/accordion/saddle stitch label that is immediately “stuck” to the container in case the booklet/accordion/saddle stitch label is accidentally removed.
  2. Regardless of whether a registrant chooses to place the first aid statements for Toxicity Categories II and III products on a visible front, back, side or inside panel, EPA recommends that duplicative first aid language appear on the very back page of the booklet/accordion/saddle stitch label that is immediately attached to the container in case the booklet/accordion/saddle stitch label is accidentally removed. EPA states that this recommendation is not intended to suggest other information that registrants typically include on the very back page should be moved elsewhere.
  3. EPA recommends that the registrant community consider designing new booklets/accordion/saddle stitch labels that are not easily removed from the containers.  Per 40 C.F.R. Part 156.10(a)(4), the labels are to be “securely attached” to the immediate container of the pesticide product.  EPA believes that in many instances these labels are easily removed which is why, EPA states, it believes many registrants have already chosen to put the duplicative first aid statements on the very last page of the label that is attached to the container.

Registrants should review this guidance carefully, as this issue has been the subject of concern and controversy for a number of registrants.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Christopher R. Bryant, and Margaret R. Graham

On March 6, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule (pre-publication version available here) to add hazardous waste aerosol cans to the category of universal wastes regulated under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations (Title 40 of the C.F.R., Part 273), entitled Increasing Recycling: Adding Aerosol Cans to the Universal Waste Regulations.  EPA cites as authority for this change Sections 2002(a), 3001, 3002, 3004, and 3006 of the Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by RCRA, as amended by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments Act (HSWA).  EPA states the streamlined Universal Waste regulations are expected to:

  • Ease regulatory burdens on retail stores and other establishments that discard aerosol cans by providing a clean, protective system for managing discarded aerosol cans;
  • Promote the collection and recycling of aerosol cans;
  • Encourage the development of municipal and commercial programs to reduce the quantity of these wastes going to municipal solid waste landfills or combustors; and
  • Result in an annual cost savings of $3.0 million to $63.3 million.

As aerosol cans are “widely used for dispensing a broad range of products” including pesticides, the proposed rule may have implications for chemical companies that create and distribute pesticide products marketed in aerosol cans.  Hazardous waste aerosol cans that contain pesticides are also subject to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requirements, including compliance with the instructions on the product label.  Under 40 C.F.R. Section 156.78, a flammability label statement is required for pressurized pesticide product products that states “Do not puncture or incinerate container,” but EPA’s 2004 determination (that will be posted to Docket No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2017-0463 on www.regulations.gov for this proposed rule) allows for the puncturing of cans.  The proposed rule states:

  • EPA issued a determination that puncturing aerosol pesticide containers is consistent with the purposes of FIFRA and is therefore lawful pursuant to FIFRA section 2(ee)(6) provided that the following conditions are met:  
    • The puncturing of the container is performed by a person who, as a general part of his or her profession, performs recycling and/or disposal activities;
    • The puncturing is conducted using a device specifically designed to safely puncture aerosol cans and effectively contain the residual contents and any emissions thereof; and
    • The puncturing, waste collection, and disposal, are conducted in compliance with all applicable federal, state and local waste (solid and hazardous waste) and occupational safety and health laws and regulations.
  • EPA anticipates that this 2004 FIFRA determination would not be affected by the proposed addition of hazardous waste aerosol cans to the universal waste rules.

Comments will be due 60 days after the proposed rule’s publication in the Federal Register. 


 

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

On Friday, November 3, 2017, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued guidance (California Notice 2017-13) that DPR indicates is intended to align DPR policy with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidance on secondary container labeling for pesticides.  DPR’s guidance states that secondary containers are used by the pesticide industry as part of the process of applying pesticides and “cannot be sold or distributed.”  The guidance further notes that secondary containers are “most commonly used in institutional settings for concentrated antimicrobials that are diluted prior to use or to hold pesticides filled from a larger container to be used and stored prior to application.” 

Registrants may elect to provide users with labels for secondary containers.  DPR’s new guidance states:  “Secondary container labels are not required to be submitted to U.S. EPA or DPR.”  Under the new DPR policy, however, effective immediately, if a registrant submits a secondary container label to DPR, “it must bear the same signal word as the concentrate label or no signal word.”  DPR states that it will accept a secondary container label with a lesser signal word, precautionary statements, and alternate directions for use for the diluted product only if acute toxicity data are submitted or are currently on file to support these lesser statements.

DPR’s new guidance also incorporates EPA guidance on what a secondary label should contain.  (EPA does not require secondary containers to be labeled, but notes that the applicator remains responsible for following the requirements on the pesticide product’s labeling, and complying with other relevant requirements in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and other statutes.)  Although registrants are not required to submit secondary container labels to EPA for review, EPA recommends that the applicator identify the material in the secondary container in the event of a spill to ensure that adequate information regarding the pesticide can be obtained in case of a medical or environmental emergency.  EPA recommends that such labels include the following information:

  • Product name;
  • EPA registration number;
  • Name and percentage of active ingredient of the concentrated product or if known, the percentage of active ingredient in the end-use dilution;
  • If the product in the secondary container is diluted, it should be followed by the phrase:  “The product in this container is diluted as directed on the pesticide product label”;
  • The same signal word as the registered concentrate container label;
  • The same precautionary statements as the registered concentrate container label unless the registrant has acute toxicity data supporting lesser precautionary statements for the diluted product and alternate directions for the diluted product are indicated on the concentrate container label; and
  • The statement:  “Follow the directions for use on the pesticide label when applying this product.”

DPR states:  “If currently registered products have secondary container labels on file with DPR that do not meet the above criteria, registrants should submit revised labels to DPR as an amendment.”

Each submission must include:

  • California Application to Amend Pesticide Product (DPR-REG-035);
  • $25 application fee (payable to:  Cashier, Department of Pesticide Regulation);
  • A copy of the most current EPA stamp-accepted label;
  • Six copies of the concentrate container label; and
  • Six copies of the secondary container label.
    • If the precautionary statement on the secondary container label bears lesser precautionary statements, the submission must be accompanied by acute toxicity data or a reference to data on file with DPR.

As an alternative to submitting revised labels, registrants have the option of requesting that DPR rescind acceptance of the current stamp-accepted secondary container label previously submitted.  Registrants may submit their request in writing on company letterhead to their assigned Regulatory Scientist.  If a secondary container label is inconsistent with the DPR-approved label, DPR will consider the product misbranded, and DPR notes that misbranded products are subject to enforcement action.

Registrants that have previously submitted secondary labels to DPR should review the label in comparison to the DPR-approved concentrate container label and the requirements in this notice.  All inconsistencies must be corrected via amendment submission to DPR or by making a request that DPR rescind acceptance of the current stamp-accepted secondary label so that the product is not considered misbranded and therefore subject to enforcement action.  


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Lisa M. Campbell, and Lisa R. Burchi

On June 29, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (Court) issued an opinion dismissing the complaint and denying the motion for summary judgment of the Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility (CEH, et al.), and granting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) motion for summary judgment. 

Background

This case stems from a petition filed in 2006 requesting EPA to initiate a rulemaking to require the labeling of 371 inert ingredients in pesticides.  EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) in 2009, but did not proceed further with a rulemaking.  CEH, et al. filed a second lawsuit in March 2014, alleging that EPA’s failure to complete the rulemaking process started by the ANPR violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).  In May 2014, EPA responded by amending its response to the 2006 petition to explain that it had decided to pursue an approach different from requiring mandatory disclosure on the pesticide label of a hazardous inert ingredient.  EPA announced that it would instead pursue a “‘combination of regulatory and focused non-regulatory actions that do not rely on rulemaking’ including potentially:  (1) removing over ninety chemicals from the list of inert ingredients approved for pesticide use; (2) evaluating the effect of the 371 inert ingredients on food crops; (3) directing pesticide registrants to modify their registrations by replacing hazardous inert ingredients with less hazardous ones; and (4) seeking to expand the existing voluntary disclosure program.”  The Court granted EPA’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in the March 2014 lawsuit, “finding that there was no further relief that [the Court] could offer to plaintiffs and that the action was moot.”

CEH, et al.’s complaint in the case at issue challenges EPA’s May 2014 denial of its rulemaking petition, alleging that under FIFRA and APA, EPA’s decision to deny the rulemaking petition was “arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to [FIFRA].”  CEH, et al. requested the court to “set aside the denial and to remand the decision to the EPA to consider ‘the evidence weighing in favor of disclosure of inert pesticide ingredients.’”  Background on the complaint is available in our blog item NGOs File Suit Regarding Inert Ingredients’ Disclosure.

In support of its ruling to grant EPA’s motion for summary judgment, the court stated:  “EPA is not mandated to require disclosure of the inert ingredients at issue,” since “[p]laintiffs have provided no persuasive evidence that EPA’s decision to forego rulemaking is inconsistent with the ANPR.”  The Court noted, for example, that EPA’s regulation governing disclosure of inert ingredients, 40 C.F.R. § 156.10(g)(7), states that “[t]he Administrator may require the name of any inert ingredient(s) to be listed in the ingredient statement if he determines that such ingredient(s) may pose a hazard to man or the environment”; this allows EPA to require applicants to list hazardous inert ingredients, but “does not mandate it.”  In addition, the Court found that EPA’s decision “that a series of non-rule actions would achieve a greater reduction in the risks from the use of pesticides and could be implemented in a timelier manner,” was not arbitrary or capricious, even if it “conceivably offers a less effective remedy than what plaintiffs sought.”

Discussion

The decision supports EPA’s discretionary authority to determine how to best manage and address any inert ingredients that may cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.  EPA has set forth several actions that it is taking or intends to take in lieu of mandatory label disclosure of inert ingredients.  For example, on October 22, 2014, EPA proposed to remove 72 chemical substances from the current listing of inert ingredients approved for use in pesticide products because the inert ingredients are no longer used in any registered pesticide product.  Registrants of any pesticides containing a potentially hazardous inert ingredient should monitor how EPA’s regulatory and focused non-regulatory actions affect such substances.  


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On November 6, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has a new webpage that compiles information about secondary containers and service containers for pesticides.  Secondary and service containers are containers that are used by the pesticide industry as part of the process of applying pesticides, not for further sale or distribution.  EPA states that the website combines and replaces information previously found on the Labeling Questions and Answers page and in the Label Review Manual, and addresses frequently asked questions.  The announcement states “this is not new guidance, but the EPA hopes this new resource will make information on secondary and service containers easier to find and will lead to improved handling of these containers.”  According to EPA, the webpage is designed to help pesticide registrants and applicators:

  • Understand EPA’s definition of secondary and service containers;
  • Learn about EPA’s recommendations for good management practices when labeling secondary and service containers; and
  • Learn how to properly identify the contents of a secondary or service container, including when the pesticide is diluted.

Although registrants are not required to submit labels to secondary containers to EPA for review, EPA provides the following Q&A for when EPA will approve such labels if submitted to EPA for review:

      Q:  If a registrant wishes to submit and have EPA review the secondary container label, what does EPA require?

      A:  As it isn't required that a secondary container label be submitted, there are no requirements per se.  EPA will review them on a case-by-case basis and would be likely to accept them if:

  • The EPA-approved master label includes directions for diluting the product.
  • The secondary container label is submitted as part of the master label.
  • The master label bears a statement that the secondary container must be labeled as presented on the master label (e.g., “When this product is diluted in accordance with the directions on this label, the dilution container must bear the following statements:”)
  • The secondary container contains a statement prohibiting further sale or distribution.
  • The secondary container may have reduced precautionary language (if supported by dilution-specific acute toxicity data), but not a reduced signal word.

Requirements governing secondary containers are often a source of questions within the regulated community; many may find EPA’s new website a useful source of information on this topic.