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 Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi

On July 12, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Court) issued an opinion in Carson v. Monsanto that reverses a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia (District Court) that the Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim under Georgia law was preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The Plaintiff alleged that Monsanto’s label for its product Roundup®, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate, did not have adequate warning of the “harmful nature of glyphosate under Georgia law.” The District Court ruled that FIFRA preempts Georgia law and Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified glyphosate as not likely to be carcinogenic to humans and approved the Roundup label. Plaintiff appealed.

The Court found that the District Court erred in concluding that the Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim was preempted under FIFRA. In its Opinion, the Court stated that a common-law cause of action, such as the failure to warn claim under Georgia law, would be preempted “if two conditions are met: 1) the state requirement must be for ‘labeling or packaging’ under the language of the statute; and 2) the state requirement is ‘in addition to or different from’ requirements derived from FIFRA.” The Court found that EPA’s registration process “is not sufficiently formal to carry with it the force of law” and instead “at most creates a rebuttable presumption of compliance with FIFRA’s registration process and nothing more.” In addition, with regard to FIFRA’s labeling provisions, the Court found that the Georgia law failure to warn claim is not in addition to or different from FFIRA requirements. Instead, the Court states that the Georgia failure to warn claim “simply enforces the FIFRA cause of action, so it is not expressly preempted.”

The Court also responded to Monsanto’s argument providing several EPA documents indicating that it could not label Roundup as carcinogenic. These included various registration reviews and reregistration eligibility decisions regarding glyphosate products, an EPA paper written about the EPA Scientific Advisory Panel’s independent review of the effects of glyphosate, and “[v]arious papers involving scientific analysis where the EPA concluded that glyphosate did not cause cancer.” Monsanto additionally provided evidence regarding the August 2019 letter from EPA to glyphosate registrants that it would not permit label amendments to include warnings under California’s Proposition 65 that glyphosate is known to the State of California to cause cancer. In that letter, EPA stated that it would consider such language to be “false or misleading,” and thus would not approve of such language on any label and further that registrants were to remove such statements from any approved labels.

The Court found, however, that none of these documents had the “indicia of formality” necessary to meet their standard of review. The Court noted that none of the documents identified were the product of notice and comment rulemaking or formal adjudication, and they did not “‘bespeak the legislative type of activity that would naturally bind’ Monsanto.”  The Court thus remanded this case back to the District Court for further proceedings on the failure to warn claim.

This case potentially places glyphosate registrants in the position of defending themselves for not warning about the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate despite past EPA statements that any such warning would be considered a violation of 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.

Commentary

Regardless of the outcome of this decision, the long and tortured history of the FIFRA preemption issue was expected to, and certainly will, continue. For many years, the debate over the implications of the FIFRA requirement that the EPA label cannot have conflicting (“different from”) language that would be needed, as the argument goes, to comply with state requirements to provide adequately warnings. To a casual observer, the FIFRA label and EPA review should take care of imposing the necessary conditions to avoid harms since it is axiomatic that “the label is the law,” and, if label directions are followed, EPA expects there would be no “unreasonable adverse effects” caused by the pesticide application. But the case law has evolved over the years not only about the confines of FIFRA but also regarding other “failure to warn” cases involving label instructions and warnings approved by other federal agencies (e.g., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration). The result has been a continued series of cases where the courts, state and federal, have to determine where federal requirements end and freedom for state requirements are allowed. 

In this case, the outcome was a disappointment to the registrant community but is unlikely to stop the flow of litigation on both sides of the preemption arguments. And the recent announcement in April 2022 by the Biden Administration EPA to reverse effectively the 2019 letter to California about FIFRA labels and California’s Proposition 65 requirements (Letter from California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment on California Proposition 65 |to EPA) might further muddy the water of what a FIFRA label really does imply regarding state warnings, “right-to-know” requirements, and the like.


 

By Heather F. Collins, M.S. and Barbara A. Christianson

On April 15, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final product performance data requirements for products claiming efficacy against certain pests. 87 Fed. Reg. 22464. This action officially incorporates EPA’s already existing product performance standards requirements for certain invertebrate pests into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).  EPA states this action also increases the efficiency of its approval process and will save registrants time and money.

Product performance standards are intended to make it easier for pesticide registrants to know the efficacy data that EPA requires to demonstrate that a pesticide product works as claimed. By adding these requirements into the CFR, EPA states that it intends to help ensure that submitted data meet EPA’s needs and scientific standards and satisfy a requirement of the 2018 Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 4). EPA notes as part of the agreement between pesticide stakeholders and public interest groups reflecting the environmental and farmworker safety communities in the development of PRIA, “PRIA 4 specifically establishes a new maintenance fee set-aside of up to $500,000/year to develop and finalize rulemaking and guidance for product performance data requirements for certain invertebrate pests of significant public health or economic importance. Specific to this rule, PRIA 4 requires EPA to finalize product performance data requirements by September 30, 2021, for certain pesticides intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating specified invertebrate pest of significant public health or economic importance.”

This final rule includes product performance data requirements for the categories of invertebrate pests specified in PRIA 4, which EPA states it intends to satisfy the rulemaking requirement. EPA notes that this final rule covers some invertebrate pests in addition to those specified in PRIA 4 due to their public health, economic, or ecological significance (e.g., wood destroying insects).

EPA states that it believes this final rule will save registrants approximately $17,000 per data package submitted to EPA by reducing waste and unnecessary testing, and believes it will reduce burden hours by 4,683 annually, including 4,515 hours from reduced paperwork burden associated with data generation and 168 hours from reduced paperwork with the application process.

This final rule codifies product performance data requirements to support registration of products claiming efficacy against three categories of invertebrate pests: 

  • Those identified to be of significant public health importance (e.g., ticks, mosquitoes, cockroaches);
  • Wood-destroying insects (e.g., termites); and
  • Certain invasive invertebrate species (e.g., Asian long-horned beetle).

EPA states that the latter two categories are pests considered to be of significant economic or ecological importance.

The final rule is effective on June 14, 2022.

Commentary

Codifying the product performance data requirements for invertebrate pests should increase transparency to registrants regarding the efficacy data that they typically would need to generate and submit for products to make labeling claims against these specific pests. Registrants of the products at issue should monitor these requirements closely.


 

By Lisa R. Burchi

On October 7, 2021, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 announced a settlement with Reckitt Benckiser, LLC (Reckitt Benckiser) regarding alleged violations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The specific alleged violations relate to 239 sales and distributions of two rodenticide products in the United States that EPA asserts had misleading advertising claims on the packaging. Reckitt Benckiser has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $458,000 under the settlement to resolve these violations.

Reckitt Benckiser is a supplemental distributor of two rodenticide products that are bait stations registered under FIFRA to kill mice. EPA states that in 2019, it conducted inspections of a Home Depot in South Plainfield, New Jersey, and Reckitt Benckiser’s offices in Parsippany, New Jersey. EPA thereafter determined that Reckitt Benckiser was selling these two rodenticide products in packaging or labeling that made comparative claims as to the effectiveness of the product. Specifically, the packaging stated that the products were “10x Tastier Than Lead Competitor.” The labels EPA approved for the two products did not contain this comparative claim language, and at the time of registration, data associated with the products’ claims were never provided. EPA’s regulations at 40 C.F.R. Section 156.10(a)(5)(iv) provide that statements or representations in the labeling which constitute misbranding include a “false or misleading comparison with other pesticides or devices.” EPA states that because "the comparative claims were not subject to verification, they were ‘false and misleading comparisons’ prohibited under [FIFRA].” 

This case serves as another reminder to registrants and supplemental distributors to review all labeling and advertising claims to ensure conformity with EPA-approved labels and avoidance of claims that EPA identifies as false or misleading. 


 

By Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on May 6, 2021, that Bear River Supply Inc., based in Rio Oso, California, has agreed to pay a $50,578 penalty to resolve EPA’s findings that the Company produced pesticides in an unregistered establishment, distributed and sold misbranded pesticides, and failed to maintain equipment properly. According to EPA, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) and EPA discovered the violations during a series of inspections conducted at two separate facilities in Rio Oso. Inspectors found that “Vistaspray 440 Spray Oil” and “Roundup PowerMax” were being repackaged and distributed with improper labeling. In addition, EPA states, inspectors determined that Bear River Supply was producing pesticides in a facility that was not registered with EPA. While at the facilities, inspectors also found that a secondary containment unit and loading pad, both used to contain potential spills, were inadequate.  The Company has since corrected the violations.

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide manufacturers must register their facilities with EPA and annually report their pesticide production. EPA states that production records provide information on the quantities of pesticides produced and distributed. EPA notes that in addition, the number assigned to the establishment must appear on the label. FIFRA’s reporting and labeling requirements allow EPA and state agencies to track pesticide products back to the companies that produced them and “are necessary to ensure safe management and distribution” of pesticides.


 

Innovations in agricultural chemicals have revolutionized and enhanced food production, but with progress come new challenges.  Agricultural chemicals can have widespread impacts on ecosystems and human health, and marginalized communities -- children and farmworkers in particular -- can be especially vulnerable.  Manufacturers, regulatory agencies, public health experts, and nonprofit organizations are working to address these challenges head-on by developing new products and devising robust protective measures.
 
Recent changes in federal regulations include the Worker Protection Standards under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which expand the requirements for protecting agricultural workers from pesticide exposure.  The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) presents "Pesticides, Farmworkers, Industry, and Environmental Justice," a webinar exploring the issues addressed in the new regulations and the implementation of these new obligations.  James V. Aidala, Senior Government Affairs Consultant, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), will moderate this discussion.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and Lisa R. Burchi

On June 22, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California granted summary judgment for the Plaintiffs in National Association of Wheat Growers et. al. v. Becerra, and entered a permanent injunction against enforcement of a Proposition 65 (Prop 65) warning label for pesticide products containing glyphosate.  The court found that requiring the registrants of glyphosate products to include such a warning could not be justified as a valid restriction on commercial speech and therefore is contrary to the First Amendment of the Constitution.  The same District Court had previously entered a preliminary injunction against the Prop 65 warning in 2018, and the required warning has consequently never been in effect. (See our February 28, 2018, blog entitled “Eastern District of California Rules on Motion to Enjoin Prop 65 Listing and Warning on Glyphosate Products.”)  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has stated that it would not allow a Prop 65 warning to be added to the labeling for any registered glyphosate product because such a warning is misleading and would cause the product to be “misbranded” under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(q)(1)(A). (See our August 15, 2019, blog entitled “EPA Issues Guidance Regarding Prop 65 Labeling Requirements for Glyphosate Products and OEHHA Responds.”)

A Prop 65 warning is required when the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) determines that a product contains a substance that has been classified as a human carcinogen by certain authoritative bodies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).  Based on an IARC determination that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” in humans, OEHHA listed glyphosate in July 2017 as a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, thereby triggering Prop 65 warning requirements.  Despite the IARC determination, every other authoritative body that has considered the matter (including EPA, the European Commission, and the World Health Organization) has reached a contrary determination that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic in humans.  California’s imposition of a Prop 65 warning for glyphosate was challenged in 2018 by the registrant Bayer and a coalition of farming groups and industry stakeholders, who obtained a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the warning.

Before entering the new permanent injunction, the District Court considered whether California’s regulation of commercial speech should be scrutinized under the lower standard set by the Supreme Court in Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel or the intermediate standard set by Central Hudson Gas & Electric v. Public Service Commission.  The Zauderer standard only applies to mandatory disclosure of “purely factual and uncontroversial information,” and the Court found that the Prop 65 warning for glyphosate is “misleading” and therefore neither factual nor uncontroversial.  Under the Central Hudson level of scrutiny, a governmental agency may only restrict commercial speech when the restriction directly advances an important governmental interest and where the restriction is not more extensive than necessary to serve that interest.  The Court found that the Prop 65 warning for glyphosate is misleading, and therefore does not directly advance the interest of the state in informing consumers regarding potential cancer hazards, and that the asserted state interest could be effectively advanced by other measures that do not burden freedom of speech in the same manner.

California argued that no Prop 65 warning would actually be required for glyphosate in practice because OEHHA has set a quantitative “safe harbor” level for glyphosate exposure, but the court found that this would not prevent parties other than California from bringing separate enforcement actions to enforce the listing.  Since a Prop 65 warning only needs to be “clear and reasonable,” California also proposed several alternative forms for a warning that would meet state requirements, but the court found these alternate warnings to all be misleading as well.  Based on all of these factors, the court decided to enjoin permanently the enforcement of Prop 65 warning requirements for glyphosate as an unconstitutional burden on commercial speech.

Commentary

Under FIFRA Section 24(b), no state may impose any labeling for a registered pesticide that differs from the labeling approved by EPA.  Although EPA has sometimes been willing to accommodate state labeling requirements or preferences within the labeling approved under FIFRA, there are necessary limits to this practice.  When label language sought by a state becomes misleading, approving it would also be expressly contrary to FIFRA.  How much precedential effect this decision may have with respect to other state requirements for labeling in the future is an issue that registrants should monitor closely. 


 

By Barbara A. Christianson and Heather F. Collins, M.S.

On September 24, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of the premises treatment final test guideline, under Series 810, Product Performance Test Guidelines.  The guideline, 810.3500 Premise Treatment, provides recommendations on how to conduct efficacy testing against invertebrate pests in premises, such as cockroaches, ticks, mosquitoes, flies and wasps in connection with registration of pesticide products for use against public health pests.  This guideline does not, however, apply to efficacy testing for treatment of livestock or pets, wide-area mosquito control, structural protection from termites, or bed bug products.

EPA states that “The final guideline clarifies the original guideline published in 1998 based on public comments and recommendations from the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (FIFRA SAP).”

Revisions to 810.3500 include

  • Clarifying bait product testing;
  • Offering more flexibility in testing design;
  • Updating the replication recommendations based on statistical modeling and ease of obtaining pests; and
  • Refining the statistical analyses recommendations.

Documents pertaining to the revision of the product performance guidelines, including public comment submissions, and the agency’s response to comments are available at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0693.  More information on test guidelines is available on our blog.


 

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

On August 7, 2019, EPA took long awaited action concerning the inclusion of Prop 65 warning statements for glyphosate on EPA registered pesticide labels, which will likely impact the broader ongoing debate over EPA approval of Prop 65 warnings on pesticide labels.  EPA’s August 7, 2019, letter to glyphosate registrants states that EPA “will no longer approve labeling that includes the Proposition 65 warning statement for glyphosate-containing products.”  EPA stated further that “[t]he warning statement must also be removed from all product labels where the only basis for the warning is glyphosate and from any materials considered labeling under FIFRA for those products.”   Moreover, EPA unequivocally states that “pesticide products bearing the Proposition 65 warning statement due to the presence of glyphosate are misbranded” under FIFRA Section 2(q)(1)(A).  Registrants with glyphosate products currently bearing Prop 65 warning language, where the exclusive basis for such warning is based on the presence of glyphosate, must submit draft amended labeling that removes this language by November 5, 2019.

By way of background, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) listed glyphosate as a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer on July 7, 2017.  OEHHA’s listing of glyphosate as a substance under Prop 65 is based on the International Agency on the Research for Cancer (IARC) classifying it as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”  EPA scientists subsequently completed an independent review of the available scientific data on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate and do not agree with the IARC classification. Additional information regarding glyphosate is available at B&C’s blog.

Also of note is a February 26, 2018, preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of California, in response to a motion filed by a coalition including Monsanto, CropLife America, and several growers associations alleging that the IARC classification decision for glyphosate is contrary to the international scientific consensus, that the required Prop 65 warning would be misleading to the ordinary consumer, that compelling the manufacturers of glyphosate to provide such a warning would violate the First Amendment because the warning is not factual and uncontroversial, and that the applicable criteria for injunctive relief were met.  The February 26, injunction precluded OEHHA from enforcing its Prop 65 warning requirements against glyphosate registrants that otherwise would have taken effect on July 7, 2018.  The Court did not rule that glyphosate should be removed from the Prop 65 list as a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, but did state that products containing glyphosate would not be required to comply with the warning requirements.  In issuing the preliminary injunction, the Court stated that the required warnings are “false and misleading” and that plaintiffs “have shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim, are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and that the balance of equities and public interest favor an injunction, the court will grant plaintiffs’ request to enjoin [Prop 65]’s warning requirement for glyphosate.”  More information on that case is available at B&C’s blog.  That injunction has not been appealed and remains in place.

Although the glyphosate warning that EPA has refused to allow is based on OEHHA’s recent listing under Prop 65, Prop 65 warnings on pesticide labels generally have been a significant issue since 2016 when OEHHA issued revised regulations regarding the content and transmission of Prop 65 warnings.  As a result of these revisions, many registrants sought to add Prop 65 warning requirements to pesticide labels to meet Prop 65 requirements, but many registrants have not been able to obtain EPA approval for such warnings, resulting in much controversy and discussion.  More information regarding the changes to Prop 65 warning requirements also are available at B&C’s blog.

In its press release announcing its guidance to glyphosate registrants, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states: “It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk. We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy.”  EPA states that its “independent evaluation of available scientific data included a more extensive and relevant dataset than IARC considered during its evaluation of glyphosate, from which the agency concluded that glyphosate is ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.’”  Wheeler is further quoted as stating: “It is critical that federal regulatory agencies like EPA relay to consumers accurate, scientific based information about risks that pesticides may pose to them. EPA’s notification to glyphosate registrants is an important step to ensuring the information shared with the public on a federal pesticide label is correct and not misleading.”

OEHHA immediately released its own press release on August 13, 2019, in which it “objects to US EPA’s characterization of any warning concerning glyphosate’s carcinogenicity as a false claim.’”  After reiterating OEHHA’s listing glyphosate based on the IARC determination, OEHHA states that EPA’s position “conflicts with the determination made by IARC” and that “it is disrespectful of the scientific process for US EPA to categorically dismiss any warnings based on IARC’s determinations as false.”

Commentary

The Court’s February 26, 2018, preliminary injunction was considered a significant development both for glyphosate specifically and perhaps for Prop 65 warning requirements generally, especially considering the recent influx to EPA of label amendments seeking EPA approval of revised Prop 65 warning language to address OEHHA’s revised regulatory changes.  EPA’s guidance is equally significant, as EPA has now rejected the inclusion of a Prop 65 warning that EPA believes is misleading on a federal pesticide product label.

FIFRA Section 24(b) expressly prohibits any State from requiring any label language for a registered pesticide product beyond the labeling approved by EPA, and EPA has now declined to approve pesticide labeling that includes the Prop 65 warning for glyphosate. In some instances, EPA has been willing as a courtesy to approve labeling changes requested by a State, but the glyphosate determination demonstrates that EPA will not accept any label revisions that conflict materially with its own determinations.  Although glyphosate is a fairly complex and controversial case, it will be important for registrants to monitor the evolution of EPA’s standard for when it will or will not approve a Prop 65 warning on a federal label, since this issue has been the subject of considerable controversy over the past several years.


 
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