Quantcast
Health

Thinkstock

EPA Allowing Widespread Use of Unapproved Pesticides, Study Finds

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has routinely been allowing use of unapproved pesticides under the pretext of an "emergency" when no actual emergency exists, according to an analysis released Monday by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The abuse of the emergency provision has created a loophole allowing the widespread use of unapproved pesticides, year after year, across millions of acres in ways that are either known to be harmful to wildlife or haven't been tested to be safe.


In one case the EPA has granted 78 "emergency" exceptions over the past six years for a well-known, bee-killing pesticide called sulfoxaflor, allowing its use on more than 17.5 million acres of U.S. farmland.

"It's disgusting to see the EPA's broken pesticide program bending over backward to appease the pesticide industry," said Stephanie Parent, a senior attorney in the Center for Biological Diversity's environmental health program. "These exemptions put people and wildlife at tremendous risk because they allow poisons to be applied in ways that would otherwise be illegal."

The EPA has the authority to OK temporary emergency use of unapproved pesticides if the agency determines the pesticide is needed to prevent the spread of an unexpected outbreak of crop-damaging insects, for example.

But the Center for Biological Diversity's analysis shows the EPA's routine use of the emergency provision has allowed pesticide manufacturers to bypass the typical pesticide approval process, resulting in poisons with either known or undetermined risks being applied across millions of acres of crops.

The 78 emergency exceptions for sulfoxaflor are notable because previous approval for its use on cotton was cancelled by a federal judge in 2015 due to sulfoxaflor's potential harm to pollinators, and it has never been approved for use on sorghum, which is attractive to bees. Yet the EPA granted every single requested emergency exemption for the pesticide's use on sorghum and cotton. The EPA has not released any information regarding bee die-offs or pollinator impacts as a result of these widespread exemptions.

The Center for Biological Diversity's analysis found that:

  • The 78 emergency approvals for sulfoxaflor allowed its use across more than 17.5 million acres of U.S. farmland.
  • The great majority of the approvals were done behind closed doors, with only eight of the 78 approvals going through a public review and comment process, leaving the EPA to rely almost exclusively on the applicant as a source of information.
  • Rarely was any actual emergency identified by the EPA. For example, the emergency uses of sulfoxaflor on cotton were in response to an insect that has been a problem for at least a decade and has already developed resistance to four different classes of pesticides.
  • The emergency uses approved for sorghum were issued in at least 18 states in response to an insect that has been a known problem for the past five years.
  • Fourteen states were given emergency exemptions for sulfoxaflor for at least three consecutive years for the same "emergency."

"The chronic abuse of the emergency approval process has created a shortcut for pesticide companies looking to gain backdoor approval for use of harmful pesticides," said Parent. "This dangerous, secretive practice puts people and wildlife at ongoing risk, and it needs to stop."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Mackinac Bridge from Straits of Mackinac. Gregory Varnum / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Gov. Signs Bill to Keep Line 5 Pipeline Flowing

Michigan's outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on Wednesday that creates a new government authority to oversee a proposed oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to effectively allow Canadian oil to keep flowing through the Great Lakes.

The controversial tunnel will encase a replacement segment for Enbridge Energy's aging Line 5 pipelines that run along the bottom of the Straits, a narrow waterway that connects Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The illegal La Pampa gold mine, seen here in 2017, has devastated the Peruvian Amazon and spread poisonous mercury. Planet Labs

Unprecedented New Map Unveils Illegal Mining Destroying Amazon

A first-of-its-kind map has unveiled widespread environmental damage and contamination of the Amazon rainforest caused by the rise illegal mining.

The survey, released Monday by the Amazon Socio-Environmental Geo-Referenced Information Project (RAISG), identifies at least 2,312 sites and 245 areas of prospecting or extraction of minerals such as gold, diamonds and coltan in six Amazonian countries—Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It also identified 30 rivers affected by mining and related activities.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Mako sharks killed at the South Jersey Shark Tournament in June 2017. Lewis Pugh

Shark Fishing Tournaments Devalue Ocean Wildlife and Harm Marine Conservation Efforts

By Rick Stafford

Just over three years ago, I was clinging to a rock in 20 meters of water, trying to stop the current from pulling me out to sea. I peered out into the gloom of the Pacific. Suddenly, three big dark shapes came into view, moving in a jerky, yet somehow smooth and majestic manner. I looked directly into the left eyes of hammerhead sharks as they swam past, maybe 10 meters from me. I could see the gill slits, the brown skin. But most of all, what struck me was just how big these animals are—far from the biggest sharks in the seas, but incredibly powerfully built and solid. These are truly magnificent creatures.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Sen. Joe Manchin and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts held a press conference on Oct. 3, 2017. Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

Coal-Friendly Manchin Named Top Dem on Senate Energy Panel

After weeks of discord over the potential appointment, Sen. Joe Manchin, the pro-coal Democrat of West Virginia, was named the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday.

Many Democrats and environmental groups were adamantly opposed to Manchin serving as the top Democrat on the committee that oversees policies on climate change, public lands and fossil fuel production.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Hikers on the Mt. Hollywood Trail in Griffin Park, Calif. while a brush fire burned in the Angeles National Forest on Aug. 26, 2009. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Major Health Study Shows Benefits of Combating Climate Change

During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There's something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Employees of Rural Renewable Energy Alliance working together with students and faculty of Leech Lake Tribal Collage to construct solar panels, 2017. Ryan James White

A Tribe in Northern Minnesota Shows the Country How to Do Community Solar

By Susan Cosier

Last summer on a reservation in northern Minnesota, students from Leech Lake Tribal College earned their solar installation licenses while they dug, drilled and connected five photovoltaic arrays. The panels shine blue on the plain, reflecting the sky as they generate roughly 235 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to help 100 families pay their energy bills. This is community solar in action.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Arches National Park. Chris Dodds / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump Auctions Off 150,000 Acres of Public Lands for Fracking Near Utah National Parks

On Tuesday the Trump administration offered more than 150,000 acres of public lands for fossil-fuel extraction near some of Utah's most iconic landscapes, including Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Vanderford glacier in East Antarctica is one of four that is beginning to melt, according to NASA. Angela Wylie / Fairfax Media / Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Melting Discovered in East Antarctic Region Holding Ice 'Equivalent to Four Greenlands'

Ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica have been melting at alarming rates in recent years, but at least the glaciers of East Antarctica were believed to be relatively stable. Until now. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists have discovered that glaciers covering one-eighth of Antarctica's eastern coast have lost ice in the past 10 years. If the region keeps melting, it has enough ice in its drainage basins to add 28 meters (approximately 92 feet) to global sea level rise, BBC News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!