By Susan M. Kirsch
On September 30, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an updated Aquatic Life Benchmarks Table for registered pesticides. The update includes four newly registered pesticides and their degradants as well as new values for more than 30 previously registered pesticides. The benchmarks inform state and local regulators in their interpretation of water quality monitoring data. Waterbodies where benchmarks are exceeded may be prioritized for further investigation. EPA derived the latest updates from toxicity values from the most recent ecological risk assessments for the registered pesticides as part of the regular registration review. EPA aims to update the table on an annual basis. The full table and links to source documents for each of the benchmarks are accessible on EPA’s website here.
By Kelly N. Garson and Carla N. Hutton
On September 17, 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opened a consultation period on two pilot assessments of the risks posed to humans by residues of multiple pesticides in food. EFSA is seeking comments from interested parties on the assessments. The first assessment considers the chronic effects of multiple pesticides on the thyroid system. The second looks at acute effects on the nervous system.
EFSA produced the assessments in collaboration with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment for the Netherlands (RIVM) using monitoring data from 2014, 2015, and 2016. In approving pesticides for use in the European Union (EU), EFSA establishes a maximum level of pesticide residue (MRL) allowed in food or animal feed. The MRL considers the cumulative effects of pesticides. Pesticides may only be placed on the EU market if they have no harmful effects on humans, including cumulative effects. In the two pilot assessments, EFSA classified pesticides into “cumulative assessment groups” (CAG) based upon whether they produce similar toxic effects in a specific organ or system. EFSA states that “[t]he overall draft conclusion for both assessments is that consumer risk from dietary cumulative exposure is below the threshold that triggers regulatory action for all the population groups covered.”
In 2020, EFSA will prepare the assessments in final, which will serve to “inform risk managers in the European Commission and Member States who regulate the safe use of pesticides in the EU.”
EFSA will present the assessments at a special stakeholder event in Brussels, Belgium, on October 22, 2019. The meeting is intended to allow stakeholders with expertise and interest in the area to discuss the technical issues relating to the draft assessments. Registration for the meeting closes on October 11, 2019.
All comments must be submitted by November 15, 2019. Comments on the “Cumulative dietary risk characterisation of pesticides that have chronic effects on the thyroid” may be submitted at https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/PC_CRA_Thyroid_Sept-2019. Comments on the “Cumulative dietary risk characterisation of pesticides that have acute effects on the nervous system” may be submitted at https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/PC_CRA_Nerv_Syst_Sept-2019.
The two draft assessments are available on EFSA’s website.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
On September 9, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of, and an opportunity for comment on, a document describing an “interim process” that OPP’s Environmental Fate and Ecological Effects Division is currently using to evaluate potential synergistic effects of mixtures of pesticide active ingredients on non-target organisms. As part of a lawsuit challenging the 2012 decision by EPA to register Enlist Duo Herbicide (a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate), OPP scientists learned that patent applications for some registered pesticide products included claims that particular combinations of active ingredients provide “synergistic” control of target species. Although EPA was not at that time considering potential synergies in assessing the risk for ecological effects on non-target organisms, based on the patent application claims regarding synergy for Enlist Duo, EPA decided to request that the reviewing court vacate its registration decision and remand the application for Enlist Duo for further study of these effects and any measures that might be needed to mitigate the risk to non-target organisms. This decision sparked much controversy, and many in industry were concerned that patent application claims were not being correctly interpreted by EPA for the category of pesticide products at issue.
The new document released by EPA for review and comments is entitled: “Process for Receiving and Evaluating Data Supporting Assertions of Greater Than Additive (GTA) Effects in Mixtures of Pesticide Active Ingredients and Associated Guidance for Registrants.” EPA states that it “has generally been applying this interim process since 2016.” The process described in the document has five steps: (1) registration applicants must search for any granted patents that include synergy (GTA) claims for combinations of pesticides; (2) applicants must review the patent claims and supporting data for relevance to ecological risk assessment; (3) applicants must report to EPA all effects testing data from the relevant patents; (4) applicants must do a statistical analysis (using a method prescribed by EPA) to determine whether any observations of GTA effects are statistically significant; and (5) EPA will review all submitted information to decide whether it should be utilized in ecological risk assessment.
In the Federal Register notice, OPP lists five specific areas pertaining to the interim risk assessment process described in the document on which it is requesting comment:
- Are there technical aspects of the interim process that warrant change? If so, what changes are recommended?
- What aspects of the process could be applied to the evaluation of open literature sources of GTA effects pesticide interactions?
- Should EPA consider standardizing a more detailed search and reporting approach, and how should EPA do that?
- Should EPA continue the evaluation process as described in this document? If so, what performance metrics (e.g., number of evaluations) should EPA consider before deciding the utility of this approach?
- What applicant burden is associated with the activities described in this memorandum, including compiling, analyzing, and submitting the information? Specifically, does an estimate of 80-240 hours of burden per applicant cover the respondent burden associated with the interim process?
When the National Research Council (NRC) evaluated the importance of toxicological interactions between pesticide active ingredients in 2013, the NRC concluded that such interactions are rare, but that EPA should nonetheless consider such interactions when the best available scientific evidence supports such an evaluation. In the current Federal Register notice, EPA makes it clear that it is uncertain concerning the utility for risk assessment of the information used by manufacturers to support synergistic effects claims in pesticide patents. According to EPA, 24 applicants for new registrations have submitted patent data to date, but only three of these submissions contained information that indicated a need for further testing and no submission ultimately led to any adjustment of the ecological risk assessment. At this juncture, EPA will continue collecting patent data that may be pertinent to GTA effects, but when it has sufficient experience upon to base a general policy it may either continue or improve this process or discontinue it after explaining why.
When EPA requested that the reviewing court vacate and remand the registration EPA had granted for Enlist Duo, the parties seeking judicial review located data in the patent applications that EPA had not previously seen or reviewed and that EPA believed could possibly be pertinent to potential adverse effects on non-target plants. EPA concluded that it should revisit the decision based on the additional data. Although EPA decided to request vacatur and remand, the applicant Dow AgroSciences had arguably followed all of the procedures then in place, because FIFRA Section 3(c)(5) allows EPA to waive data requirements pertaining to efficacy, and EPA typically registers pesticide product that are not intended to protect public health without any independent evaluation of efficacy data. Nevertheless, in general EPA may choose to evaluate pesticidal efficacy data; such circumstances in the past often involved cases where EPA was required to consider whether pesticide benefits are sufficient to outweigh identified risks. In the Enlist case, EPA determined that it should do so where potential synergy in pesticidal efficacy is pertinent to evaluating ecological effects on non-target species.
What EPA must decide now is how often efficacy data that has been deemed adequate by the Patent and Trademark Office to support a patent for a new pesticide mixture will have any material significance in the context of ecological risk assessment. Before EPA makes a determination whether or not patent data has sufficient pertinence to continue requiring routine collection and evaluation of such data, EPA has decided it is prudent to afford all stakeholders an opportunity to comment on whether EPA has been asking the right questions.
All comments on the draft document must be submitted no later than October 24, 2019.
By Jason E. Johnston
On September 4, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs’ Environmental Fate and Effects Division (EFED) announced that the next Environmental Modeling Public Meeting (EMPM) will be held on October 16, 2019. The EMPM is a semi-annual public forum for EPA, pesticide registrants, and other stakeholders to discuss current issues related to modeling pesticide fate, transport, and exposure for risk assessments in a regulatory context.
In a press release to the public, EPA indicates that the topics covered at the October meeting will include sources of usage data (relating to the actual application of pesticides, in terms of the quantity applied or units treated); spatial applications of usage data; model parameterization; extrapolation of usage data to fill in gaps; temporal variability of usage; and updates on ongoing topics. Presentations concerning the incorporation of pesticide usage data into environmental exposure and ecological risk assessments will also be included.
Registration is required. Requests to participate in the meeting must be received on or before September 23, 2019, as noted in the Federal Register notice.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and James V. Aidala
On August 2, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) announced that it has decided to reduce the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) safety factor for infants and children for pyrethroids from its current value of 3X to a new value of 1X. This decision is based on a July 1, 2019, OPP report entitled “USEPA Office of Pesticide Programs’ Re-evaluation of the FQPA Safety Factor for Pyrethroids: Updated Literature and CAPHRA Program Data Review.” Risk assessments incorporating the new lower FQPA safety factor for pyrethroids will be utilized in developing proposed registration review decisions for these compounds, and EPA has stated it will be taking public comment on the OPP report reducing the FQPA safety factor for pyrethroids after EPA publishes a notice of availability for the proposed registration review decisions.
Pyrethroids are a group of insecticides that includes natural pyrethrins (found in chrysanthemums) and more than 30 synthetic compounds with similar structure and activity. EPA has determined that it is appropriate to establish one FQPA safety factor for all pyrethroid active ingredients because these compounds all have the same mode of action and similar patterns of toxicity. Pyrethroid insecticides are widely used in and around residential structures, on pets, in treated clothing, for mosquito control, and in various agricultural applications. EPA indicates that although pyrethroids have relatively low mammalian toxicity, EPA believes that the principal concern for human risk assessment is a potential to cause acute neurotoxic effects.
The FQPA safety factor is intended to account for “potential pre- and post-natal toxicity and completeness of data with respect to exposure and toxicity to infants and children.” The FQPA safety factor is set by statute at a default value of 10X, but EPA may select a lower value for this safety factor if EPA determines based on “reliable data” that such a lower value will be safe for infants and children. This determination necessarily depends on EPA’s assessment of the quality of the data that address the susceptibility to adverse effects of the pesticide of infants and children. Based on current EPA guidance, OPP evaluates the need for the default FQPA safety factor of 10X in two components: a safety factor of about 3X assigned to pharmacodynamic (PD) differences and a safety factor of about 3X assigned to pharmacokinetic (PK) differences. PD differences refer to the sequence of events at the molecular or cellular level leading to a toxic response to a substance, while PK differences refer to absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of the substance.
EPA previously evaluated the adequacy of the database concerning risks to infants and children posed by pyrethroid active ingredients in 2011. At that time, EPA decided that there were sufficient data concerning the mechanism for potential neurotoxic effects of pyrethroids to allow EPA to reduce the factor for PD differences to 1X, but EPA retained the 3X factor for PK differences because EPA believed that the available pharmacokinetic data for pyrethroids was not sufficient for EPA to conclude that infants and children would not confront a greater risk of neurotoxic outcomes. After EPA made the 2011 determinations, the Council for the Advancement of Pyrethroid Human Risk Assessment (CAPHRA) conducted a variety of additional research to address whether children are more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of pyrethroid exposure, and this research assessed both PD and PK differences. CAPHRA submitted a peer-reviewed physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PbPk) model for pyrethroids to EPA in 2018. After reviewing the new CAPHRA data and the current public literature for pyrethroids, EPA has now concluded that the factor for PD differences should be maintained at 1X, but the factor for PK differences should be reduced from 3X to 1X. Collectively, these determinations mean that EPA has concluded that there are reliable data to support a determination that infants and children are not more susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of pyrethroids than adults, so there is no need to retain either the default FQPA safety factor of 10X or the previous FQPA safety factor used for pyrethroids of 3X.
The adoption by EPA of a new FQPA safety factor of 1X for all pyrethroid active ingredients will likely facilitate retention of existing use patterns and use directions for a large number of pyrethroid insecticides that are commonly used in and around human residences and workplaces.
From a larger perspective, the process by which EPA evaluated and selected a proposed FQPA safety factor for pyrethroids may be seen as typical for most pesticides or classes of pesticides. The selection of a FQPA safety factor for a particular pesticide usually is based on review of available animal data, including PD and PK data, to determine whether there is any basis for concluding that infants and children may be more susceptible to adverse effects of that pesticide than adults. Where EPA decides that the animal data addressing this question are insufficient, affected registrants and other proponents of registration can consult with EPA concerning studies that will address the uncertainties. Depending on the outcome of such studies, EPA may be able to conclude that there is a scientific basis for a partial or complete reduction of the default FQPA safety factor.
Compared to this typical evaluation process, the recent decision by EPA to retain the default FQPA safety factor for all organophosphate (OP) active ingredients, which was based on EPA’s interpretation of neurodevelopmental effects reported at low exposure levels (below the threshold for acetylcholinesterase inhibition) in epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos, may be seen as an aberration. EPA’s decision to rely on epidemiology studies that may be susceptible to methodological biases, and the decision to utilize epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos to set the FQPA safety factors for all OP pesticides, have both been controversial.
EPA’s recent decision to retain the current tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos was based in significant part on EPA’s interpretation of a PbPk model for chlorpyrifos previously submitted by DowAgro (now Corteva), which mitigated to some degree EPA’s retention of the default FQPA safety factor for chlorpyrifos. Corteva may submit further data addressing PD and PK differences for chlorpyrifos, and EPA has also stated that it intends to review some new animal studies for chlopyrifos, which purport to show neurodevelopmental effects at low exposure levels. Perhaps these data will allow EPA to establish a point of departure (POD) for chlorpyrifos risk assessment without any need for a further excursion into the unfamiliar risk assessment territory represented by EPA’s use of epidemiology data for chlorpyrifos.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On May 31, 2019, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) issued its Proposed Re-evaluation Decision PRVD2019-05, Chlorpyrifos and Its Associated End-use Products: Updated Environmental Risk Assessment (Updated Environmental Risk Assessment). PMRA states that this re-evaluation “considers data and information from pesticide manufacturers, published scientific reports, and other regulatory agencies” and that “Health Canada applies internationally accepted risk assessment methods as well as current risk management approaches and policies.”
PMRA is proposing the cancellation of most uses of chlorpyrifos, including almost all agricultural uses, due to PMRA’s belief that they pose unacceptable risks to the environment. The proposal would allow a small number of uses to continue if certain label changes are made. More specifically, PMRA states that its evaluation of available scientific information “has not found acceptable risks to beneficial arthropods, birds, mammals and all aquatic biota in the environment for most current chlorpyrifos uses” but “[g]reenhouse ornamental, outdoor ornamentals (container stock only) for control of Japanese beetle larvae, indoor and outdoor structural, adult and larval mosquito uses of chlorpyrifos have been shown to be acceptable from the environmental perspective.” The label changes that PMRA states would be required for these uses to continue include the following: (1) standard environmental hazard statements to inform users of the potential toxic effects to non-target species; and (2) standard environmental advisory statements for prevention of contamination of aquatic systems and to reduce volatilization.
There is a 90-day public consultation period on the proposal, which began on May 31, 2019, during which the public may submit written comments and additional information to PMRA. PMRA states that the public may submit additional information that could be used to refine risk assessments and that the final re-evaluation decision will take into consideration the comments and information received during the comment period, which could result in revised risk mitigation measures. The re-evaluation decision document will include the final re-evaluation decision, the reasons for it, and a summary of comments received on the proposed re-evaluation decision with Health Canada’s responses.
More information on chlorpyrifos issues, including California’s recent announcement that it would be initiating cancellation proceedings of chlorpyrifos, can be found on our blog.
By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi
Beginning on January 23, 2018, the European Commission (EC) opened a consultation period on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) risk assessment process (scientific advice). The EC states it is seeking feedback on its process both as a “follow-up to the commitments made by the Commission in reply to the European Citizens’ Initiative on glyphosate,” and in response to “citizens [that] have put into question the risk assessment based on studies provided by the industry and this in particular where the industry seeks an authorisation, e.g. for pesticides, GMOs etc.”
The General Food Law Regulation established EFSA, an independent scientific agency, to provide the risk assessment component of its risk analysis principle; the other two components are risk management and risk communication. EFSA provides its scientific opinions “which form the basis for the measures taken by the [European Union (EU)] in the food chain.” The EC states the General Food Law Regulation “is the cornerstone of the EU regulatory framework covering the entire food chain: ‘from farm to fork.’” The EC is requesting feedback to help it “look into how [the EC] can improve the current system and to address citizens’ expectations about independence and transparency of the EU risk assessment system.” The EC is specifically requesting views and experiences on the following:
- The transparency and independence of the EU risk assessment system with respect to the underlying industry studies and information on which EFSA's risk assessment/scientific advice is based;
- Risk communication; and
- The governance of EFSA, in particular the involvement of the EU Member States (MS) in the EU risk assessment system.
To contribute, interested parties must fill out the online questionnaire available here. All stakeholders and EU as well as non-EU citizens are welcome to contribute to this consultation. The consultation period will close on March 20, 2018.
This Consultation is of significant interest to stakeholders, particularly in balancing the potential need for increased transparency with the need to protect confidential business information, trade secret information, and proprietary expensive data investments. Decisions made by EFSA also could have a global impact on data protection, as any decisions made by EFSA to increase transparency could affect whether certain data can continue to be protected under other regulatory programs.
Outside of the transparency issues that are receiving much attention of late, it is important to note generally that views about risk assessment policies across governments tend to be driven by underlying political disagreements, with support or criticism somewhat predictable depending on how the resultant decisions are “for or against” the view of an interested constituency.
The transparency issue here should be considered not only on its own merits, but also within the controversy that surrounded the EU assessment approach for glyphosate, an herbicide which is widely used in production of genetically modified crops. As a stalking horse for the EU debate about biotechnology crops, the EU glyphosate assessment has, for example, become embroiled as part of the glyphosate carcinogenic classification of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). See our blog item IARC Announces Cancer Classification for Glyphosate and Other Pesticides. The IARC review concluded that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen,” contrary to most other assessments done by the U.S., Canada, and some EU Member States. Comments on the general EU risk assessment process can be expected to be intertwined with the perspective that any commenter has on the glyphosate assessment, even though the request is for public comment on the assessment process generally, and not only specifically about glyphosate.
More information on glyphosate is available on our blog under key word glyphosate.
By Timothy D. Backstrom, James V. Aidala, and Lisa M. Campbell
On December 18, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is releasing for public comment the draft human health and ecological risk assessments for glyphosate. EPA’s Draft Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments for Glyphosate website states that the “draft risk assessments and supporting documents will be available in glyphosate’s registration review docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361 on www.regulations.gov in early 2018,” and that EPA will “open a 60-day public comment period for the draft risk assessments, evaluate the comments received, and consider any potential risk management options for this herbicide.” Many of the assessment documents, including the draft human health risk assessment, are already available on EPA’s website, but not yet posted in the docket.
The EPA announcement includes the following summary of EPA’s determinations:
- The draft human health risk assessment concludes that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. The Agency’s assessment found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label. The Agency’s scientific findings are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by a number of other countries as well as the 2017 National Institute of Health Agricultural Health Survey.
- EPA’s human health review evaluated dietary, residential/non-occupational, aggregate, and occupational exposures. Additionally, the Agency performed an in-depth review of the glyphosate cancer database, including data from epidemiological, animal carcinogenicity, and genotoxicity studies.
- The ecological risk assessment indicates that there is potential for effects on birds, mammals, and terrestrial and aquatic plants. EPA used the most current risk assessment methods, including an evaluation of the potential effects of glyphosate exposure on animals and plants.
EPA states the proposed interim registration review decision for glyphosate is scheduled to be published in 2019.
This latest EPA announcement is consistent with other determinations concerning glyphosate made by EPA in recent years, including statements made during the Obama Administration. EPA presented its analysis of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) in December 2016. EPA has consistently taken the position that the human health risks from glyphosate are low, and that food and water residues of glyphosate easily satisfy the requirement that they be “safe” for human consumption.
Critics of glyphosate use often focus on the widespread adoption of glyphosate-resistant bioengineered crops. If these genetically modified organism (GMO) crops were not specifically designed for use in conjunction with glyphosate, there would likely be much less discussion about the safety of the herbicide.
Because EPA’s announcement includes a statement that “there is potential for effects on birds, mammals, and terrestrial and aquatic plants,” critics of glyphosate and the associated GMO crops will likely continue to press for restrictions based on the ecological effects of glyphosate. Moreover, there is also likely to be continued controversy concerning the human health effects of glyphosate. Notwithstanding the human health safety findings in this EPA assessment and the other assessments cited in EPA’s statement, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate as “probably” carcinogenic to humans. It is thus probable that the controversy concerning glyphosate and the associated GMO crops will continue unabated.
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog under key word glyphosate.
By James V. Aidala
On December 15, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its release of preliminary ecological and human health risk assessments for three neonicotinoid insecticides: clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, as well as a preliminary ecological risk assessment for imidacloprid, assessing risks to birds, mammals, non-target insects, and plants. The assessments are available in the dockets linked below:
EPA also released new cotton and citrus benefits assessments for foliar applications of the neonicotinoids as well as its response to public comments on the 2014 Benefits of Neonicotinoid Seed Treatment to Soybean Production. These are available in Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0737.
For all of the dockets listed above, EPA states that it is particularly interested in public comment on the benefits for cotton and citrus, since previous assessments identified potential risks to pollinators. Further, EPA states that “early input from the public will be helpful in developing possible mitigation options that may be needed to address risks to bees. Among the benefits identified, the neonicotinoids were found to be critical for management of Asian citrus psyllid -- which causes citrus greening, a devastating pest for citrus growers, and for control of plant bugs and stink bugs in cotton.” The comment period will begin when the Federal Register notice is published and will be open for 60 days. EPA states that it plans to release the final pollinator risk assessments and proposed interim decisions for these chemicals in mid-2018.
These documents EPA has added to the dockets linked above add to a trove of continued EPA assessments of the neonicotinoid compounds. In January 2016, EPA assessed the risks to pollinators and concluded that the seed treatment uses are generally not of concern, but that there are possible risks of importance in citrus and cotton production. This is why this recent batch of documents, including the benefits assessments of the neonicotinoid products in citrus and cotton production, along with the long-awaited response to comments to EPA’s earlier benefit assessment of the soybean use, has been anticipated for some time. In summary, the benefits assessment for both cotton and citrus indicate significant benefits for these uses. And regarding the earlier benefits assessment of soybeans, EPA now concludes that it underestimated the benefits of the soybean uses generally and in particular has concluded significant benefits in some regions from soybean seed treatments.
With EPA now concluding these uses have significant benefits, there may be some need for risk mitigation of certain use patterns, but generally the estimated benefits will offset and preclude the imposition of more general label restrictions for these crops. For example, the benefits assessment for the citrus uses states flatly that the continued sustainability of the citrus crop requires continued use of the neonicotinoid products (to control the insect that is the vector for citrus greening disease).
Regarding other formulations and risk to organisms other than honeybees, the documents do identify some possible adverse impacts on non-target aquatic insects, birds, and possibly some aquatic invertebrates. These initial findings will likely continue to fuel the debate about the impacts of neonicotinoid use. Registrants will likely submit significant amounts of rebuttal data to further refine these risk estimates and currently do not anticipate significant additional label restrictions as a result, especially since EPA has concluded these products have more significant economic benefits which will be part of any risk-benefit considerations as EPA moves forward.
More information on neonicotinoid issues is available on our blog under key word neonicotinoids.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Jason E. Johnston, M.S., and James V. Aidala
On May 25, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of ecological risk assessments for four neonicotinoid active ingredients for public comment as well as the Registration Review Update for Four Neonicotinoid Insecticides (Update). 82 Fed. Reg. 24113. The ecological risk assessments are:
EPA states that public comments “could address, among other things, the Agency’s risk assessment methodology and assumptions applied to its draft risk assessments, such as its methodology for estimating colony-level risk to bees from exposure to bee bread.” Comments on the three ecological risk assessments are due by July 24, 2017.
The main focus of the Update document is EPA’s efforts to harmonize the risk assessment and management of the four neonicotinoids during registration review. EPA has identified additional pollinator exposure data and pollinator toxicity data needs; registrants have committed to producing the needed data, and most of the data will be submitted in 2017. EPA plans to produce final pollinator risk assessments for both agricultural and non-agricultural uses in 2018. Release of non-pollinator risk assessments (i.e., aquatic organisms, terrestrial mammals, and birds) is planned for 2017. Human health risk assessments are also scheduled to be issued in 2017. EPA has stated that mitigating risk from the uses of all neonicotinoids may be considered for all four compounds at the same time to ensure consistent risk management and to prevent unnecessary shifts in usage between the compounds without a reduction in risk. EPA intends to release final pollinator assessments and proposed interim decisions for registration review for all four neonicotinoids in 2018.
From the EPA website, the following general statement summarizes what EPA has found so far:
- 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.
To some degree, it is reassuring that widespread adoption of the neonicotinoid products appears not to be an overwhelming or altogether unanticipated risk to pollinators. For insecticides, that foliar spray applications could be harmful is not good news, as any direct contact of an insect (bees) and insecticides usually is not good for the health of the insect.
Another point some may find reassuring is that EPA has not found seed treatment with neonicotinoid products to be of significant risk. This is ironic to some degree, since one of the fundamental assumptions not long ago among many beekeepers was that the seed treatment products were a singular and significant cause of the increase in colony decline and loss.
EPA’s description of the registration review status of these products also indicates that a great volume of additional data concerning possible pollinator risks is due to arrive over the next six to 18 months. Obviously, the results of these additional studies will fundamentally inform the EPA risk assessment conclusions. At the same time, one legacy of the Obama Administration in this space, the development of state Manage Pollinator Protection Plans (MP3), also will be impacted by what EPA discovers from this volume of soon-to-arrive data.
Until then, and until the new political leadership of the agency indicates any direction on pollinator issues, it is unclear whether the pollinator issue will remain one of the priority issues for program attention, or be folded into the general timeline and normal course or registration review over the next few years.