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EPA Issues Letter Stating It is "Unlikely" to Approve New Outdoor Neonicotinoid Pesticide Uses
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By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala


On April 2, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter to all registrants of nitroguanidine neonicotinoid pesticide products stating that “until the data on pollinator health have been received and appropriate risk assessments completed,” EPA is “unlikely to be in a position to determine that such uses would avoid ‘unreasonable adverse effects on the environment’ as required under FFIRA to support further regulatory expansion of these pesticides in outdoor settings.” EPA asks that the affected registrants withdraw or modify pending new outdoor use/expansion and/or pending nitroguanidine neonicotinoid registrations with a new outdoor use by April 30, 2015.

The letter states that the letter recipients are companies that have submitted an application for a new outdoor use and/or hold registrations for products containing imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin or thiamethoxam that have directions for outdoor application.

Affected neonicotinoid actions include:

*  New Uses (including crop group expansion requests);

*  Addition of New Use Patterns, such as aerial application;

*  Experimental Use Permits; and

*  New Special Local Needs Registrations.

The letter does not, however, preclude the approval of “me-too” products -- “products that are identical or substantially similar to existing uses.” In addition, EPA states that if a significant new pest issue should arise that may be uniquely addressed by one of these chemicals, EPA may consider whether an emergency use under FIFRA Section 18 might be appropriate. In the event that an emergency use is requested, EPA plans to assess such requests by relying on available information and risk mitigation strategies.

This new missive from EPA provides yet another example of a recent trend that many registrants believe is of concern, whereby EPA makes a broadly applicable set of regulatory decisions without an associated administrative process. With this approach, EPA summarily issues a letter to a class of registrants with immediate direct affect on their registrations with little or no room for consideration of individual facts, and with little explanation of important risk issues. In this letter, for example, EPA precludes the expansion of new uses, but yet allows the continued processing of “me-too” applications with no explanation from a risk profile of the risk difference that allows one type of product to be processed, but not the other. There are many possible scenarios where a new or expanded use of a product would not present any more risk to pollinators than the me-too product that EPA indicates will be considered.

This one-size-fits-all approach also appears to exclude consideration of any risk reduction potential of the pending applications (for example, when a pending neonic application represents a reduction in worker risk or endangered species when compared to an existing use pattern). Some applications may replace current exposure levels to organophosphate insecticides that EPA has generally sought to reduce. The potential processing of Section 18 exemptions may provide an avenue for such considerations, but the presumption that the pollinator issue a priori makes all other risk elements secondary is a tacit admission of where EPA currently evaluates the potential risk to honeybees in comparison to other possible impacts from pesticide use, including human health risks.

More information on EPA’s efforts to protect pollinators: http://www2.epa.gov/pollinator-protection.