EPA Watchdog: 'Emergency' Pesticide Approval Process Is Flawed
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of the Inspector General released a report Tuesday finding that the agency's practice of routinely granting "emergency" approval for use of pesticides across millions of acres does not effectively measure risks to human health or the environment.
The inspector general recommended that the EPA "develop and implement applicable outcome-based performance measures to demonstrate the human health and environmental effects of the EPA's emergency exemption decisions."
The EPA disagreed with the recommendation, leaving the issue of chronic overuse of the emergency exemptions unresolved.
"This report makes clear that the EPA has been abusing emergency approval to greenlight pesticide uses that are either too dangerous or the risks are unknown," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Corporate agriculture is essentially using this as a backdoor to getting highly toxic pesticides approved that would have never made it through the EPA's normal review process."
Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the EPA has the authority to approve the 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 this provision has been widely abused.
That widespread abuse was chronicled in the Center's recent report, Poisonous Process: How the EPA's Chronic Misuse of 'Emergency' Pesticide Exemptions Increases Risks to Wildlife. For example, as of 2017 the EPA had granted 78 "emergency" exemptions for sulfoxaflor, a pesticide that the EPA itself concluded is highly toxic to bees.
Previously, in response to beekeepers challenging this registration, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the EPA's original registration of sulfoxaflor in 2015. The EPA's new 2016 registration for sulfoxaflor—purportedly designed to ensure essentially no exposure to bees—excluded crops like cotton and sorghum that are attractive to bees. However, the Center's report found that the EPA has used emergency exemptions to allow sulfoxaflor use on more than 17.5 million acres of U.S. cotton and sorghum farms.
In addition to the 22 emergency exemptions granted so far in 2018, the 78 emergency exemptions for sulfoxaflor highlighted in the Center's report detail how the EPA misuses these exemptions:
- 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 had been an ongoing problem for at least a decade.
- 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."
In addition to sulfoxaflor, the EPA has granted eight emergency approvals in the past three years for use of the medically important antibiotics oxytetracycline and streptomycin on citrus trees in Florida and California.
For more than 10 years the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization have recognized these drugs as being "highly important" or "critically important" to human medicine—including playing a vital global role in combating tuberculosis. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics can result in the spread of bacteria resistant to them, triggering growing international concern over the continuing long-term ability of these drugs to tackle disease.
"The EPA is far too busy looking for loopholes to approve harmful pesticides when it should be focusing on keeping humans and wildlife safe from those pesticides," said Donley. "The routine abuse of emergency exemptions must be eliminated."
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Kiyoshi Kurokawa and Najmedin Meshkati
Ten years ago, on March 11, 2011, the biggest recorded earthquake in Japanese history hit the country's northeast coast. It was followed by a tsunami that traveled up to 6 miles inland, reaching heights of over 140 feet in some areas and sweeping entire towns away in seconds.
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Nuclear power generates about 10% of the world's electricity (TWh = terawatt-hours). About 50 new plants are under construction, but many operating plants are aging. World Nuclear Association / CC BY-ND
<div id="07c42" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ac2be7bdc1a748c089d24d27f01992a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366694917045690369" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🇸🇪 Nuclear Safety statement in IAEA BoG: Important safety upgrades introduced at 6 remaining nuclear power stations… https://t.co/FrgHv4N4UL</div> — SwedenUN Vienna 🇸🇪 (@SwedenUN Vienna 🇸🇪)<a href="https://twitter.com/SwedenUN_Vienna/statuses/1366694917045690369">1614680434.0</a></blockquote></div>
Author Najmedin Meshkati holding an earthquake railing in a Fukushima Daiichi control room during a 2012 site visit. Najmedin Meshkati / CC BY-ND
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"Watch. Connect. Take Action."
These words are the invitation and mandate of the WaterBear Network, a free film-streaming platform that launched in November of 2020. Its goal is to turn inspirational images of the natural world into actions to save it.
WaterBear CEO Ellen Windemuth uses films to inspire planet-positive actions. WaterBear
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By Kenny Stancil
Amid the ongoing climate emergency and the devastating coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. alone as well as an economic meltdown that has left millions of people unemployed, the Sunrise Movement on Thursday launched its "Good Jobs for All" campaign to demand that lawmakers pursue a robust recovery that guarantees a good job to anyone who wants one and puts the country on a path toward a Green New Deal.
<div id="c7fe3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5664692fdfd187db01eff5ac2787c564"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1367650177436311562" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">We’re coming together to fight for each other and guarantee #GoodJobsForAll Join us: https://t.co/MoJhmlzoaS https://t.co/IAPa8DeeLR</div> — Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)<a href="https://twitter.com/sunrisemvmt/statuses/1367650177436311562">1614908186.0</a></blockquote></div>
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bpperry / Getty Images
By Tara Lohan
Each year the amount of plastic swirling in ocean gyres and surfing the tide toward coastal beaches seems to increase. So too does the amount of plastic particles being consumed by fish — including species that help feed billions of people around the world.
Blue shark at Cape Point, South Africa, 2016. Steve Woods / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0