Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Vacates Dicamba Registrations

This original article was published on June 4, 2020 by AgriPulse. You can access the original article here. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated the registrations of three dicamba herbicides — Bayer’s Xtendimax, BASF’s Engenia and Corteva’s FeXapan — after finding that EPA substantially understated or failed to consider the social and economic costs.

When it granted conditional registrations in October 2018, “EPA underestimated by as much as 25 percent the amount of DT [dicamba-tolerant] soybeans planted and, commensurately, the amount of dicamba herbicides applied in 2018,” which caused more than 1 million acres of damage in 18 states, the court said in its 56-page decision.

Loss of the herbicides in the middle of growing season will likely find growers scrambling to find alternatives. The court’s decision does not address Tavium, Syngenta’s dicamba herbicide.

We acknowledge the difficulties these growers may have in finding effective and legal herbicides to protect their DT crops if we grant vacatur,” the court said. “They have been placed in this situation through no fault of their own. However, the absence of substantial evidence to support the EPA’s decision compels us to vacate the registrations.”

An EPA spokesperson said it is “currently reviewing the court decision and will move promptly to address the court’s order.”

“EPA recognized that there had been an enormous increase in dicamba complaints in 2017 and 2018, but it purported to be agnostic as to whether those complaints under-reported or over-reported the amount of dicamba damage,” the court said. “In fact, record evidence shows that the complaints substantially under-reported the actual amount of damage.”

“EPA also entirely failed to acknowledge a social cost that had already been experienced and was likely to increase,” the court said. “The record contains extensive evidence that [over-the-top] application of dicamba herbicides has torn apart the social fabric of many farming communities.”

The decision was praised by the environmental groups that brought the case — the National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, and Pesticide Action Network North America.

“The court found that EPA ‘refused to estimate the amount of dicamba damage’ by characterizing it as ‘potential’ and ‘alleged,’ when in fact the record showed that ‘dicamba had caused substantial and undisputed damage,'” the groups said in a news release. “Similarly, EPA ignored the consensus views of scientists, farmers, and even EPA officials that formal complaints of dicamba damage understated actual damage, solely because Monsanto had claimed the contrary.”

“This is a massive victory that will protect people and wildlife from uses of a highly toxic pesticide that never should’ve been approved by the EPA,” said Lori Ann Burd, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program.

Bayer said, “We strongly disagree with the ruling and are assessing our options,” according to a company statement. “If the ruling stands, we will work quickly to minimize any impact on our customers this season. Our top priority is making sure our customers have the support they need to have a successful season.”

The company also said EPA had “conducted an extensive review and considered all relevant science prior to issuing the current registration for XtendiMax” and said it “stands fully behind our XtendiMax product.”

The court also found problems with the label used for the 2019 and 2020 growing seasons. “Extensive evidence in the record indicates that there is a risk of substantial non-compliance with the EPA-mandated label,” the court said.

“Even before the additional restrictions were added to the 2018 label, many industry professionals had been dismayed by the difficulty in complying with the complex and onerous label requirements,” the court said. “By October 2018, there was substantial evidence that even conscientious applicators had not been able consistently to adhere to the label requirements.”

In its Oct. 31, 2018, decision approving over-the-top use of dicamba on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton, “EPA nowhere acknowledged the evidence in the record showing there had been substantial difficulty in complying with the mitigation requirements of earlier labels,” the court said. “Nor did it acknowledge the likelihood that the additional mitigation requirements imposed by the 2018 label would increase the degree of non-compliance.”

The court also said EPA had “entirely failed to acknowledge the substantial risk that the registrations would have anticompetitive economic effects in the soybean and cotton industries.”

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EPA Makes Paraquat Draft Risk Assessments Available for Public Comment

This original announcement was published by the EPA on October 15, 2019 and can be accessed here.

Today, EPA is taking an important step in its regulatory review of paraquat—an herbicide used in agricultural and commercial settings only. The draft risk assessments are the product of an extensive evaluation of available data on the health and environmental impacts associated with the pesticide. The agency is seeking public input on draft human health and ecological risk assessments. These draft risk assessments are the next step in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) registration review process and are not a denial or an approval of the herbicide. Public comments will be accepted until December 16, 2019.

Additional Background

Paraquat is already applied annually to control invasive weeds and plants in more than 100 crops—including cotton, corn, and soybeans, and there are presently no direct alternatives to this product. All paraquat products are Restricted Use Products. Additionally, paraquat products can only be applied by certified pesticide applicators. EPA does not allow the use of paraquat in residential areas.

EPA has taken proactive steps, outside of the standard registration review process, to ensure paraquat is used in a manner that is safe and consistent with the label directions. This includes a safety awareness campaign and changes to labels and product packaging to stop improper uses, which have led to poisonings and deaths. Additionally, specialized training for certified applicators who use paraquat was released earlier this year to ensure that the pesticide is used correctly. EPA is continuing to evaluate the effectiveness of these measures as the agency works to complete the required registration review process.

EPA found no dietary risks of concern when paraquat is used according to label instructions. The draft human health risk assessment identifies potential risks to workers who apply paraquat or enter treated fields after application. There are also potential risks from spray drift to bystanders at the edge of the field. The draft ecological risk assessment identifies potential risks to mammals, birds, adult honey bees, terrestrial plants, and algae. Historically, EPA has received feedback from the public linking the proper use of paraquat to Parkinson’s Disease, however, EPA’s review of the available information in the draft assessment did not support a causal relationship. As with all aspects of the draft risk assessments, the agency is seeking additional feedback from the public during the 60-day public comment period on the relationship between paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease.

After public comments on the human health and ecological risk assessments are reviewed, EPA will determine whether updates or revisions to the assessments are necessary. EPA will propose additional risk mitigation measures, if necessary, in 2020, via its Registration Review Proposed Interim Decision. Learn more about paraquat today.

Project Apis m. & the National Honey Board Announce a Request for Research Proposals to Support and Enhance Honey Bee Health

This announcement was published by Project Apis m. on behalf of the National Honey Board on September 23, 2019 and can be accessed here.

Background

U.S. Honey yield per colony is decreasing while colony losses are increasing, as many crops
dependent on pollination services continue to expand. Winter honey bee colony losses in the United States were reported at 37.7% during 2019. Colony losses are often attributed to pathogens, parasites, pesticides, hive management (queen mating, genetics, maintenance), climate, and available nutrition. United States honey yield per colony averaged 54.4 pounds in 2018, down 2% from 55.5 pounds in 2017. (www.nass.usda.gov) Sustainable beekeeping is dependent on maximizing outputs (colony health, colony numbers, pollination contracts, honey production, profitability) while minimizing the inputs (time, money, personnel). A sustainable beekeeping industry contributes to a more sustainable agricultural landscape through a stable supply of bees for crop pollination. Therefore, PAm is requesting research proposals that focus on enhancing the health, survival and productivity of honey bee colonies, which provide practical and tangible solutions to the beekeeping industry.

The funding sponsor for these proposals is the National Honey Board (NHB), with Project Apis m. (PAm) administering the proposal, accountability and funding process. The NHB funds, collected by a federal research and promotion program ($0.015/lb), for Production Research, were approximately $347,000 in 2019. PAm administers several other initiatives with funding from many sources, including corporate sponsors, private donations and grants. Past proposals received and funded by PAm and NHB reflect a similar focus on supporting the industry.

The National Honey Board is an industry-funded agriculture promotion group that works to educate consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products through research, marketing and promotional programs. Project Apis m. is the largest nongovernmental, non-profit honey bee research organization in the USA. Established by beekeepers and almond growers in 2006, PAm has infused over $8 million into bee research to provide growers with healthier bees resulting in better pollination and increased crop yields.

Click here for more information today!

EPA Registers New Uses for the Insecticide Sulfoxaflor

This announcement was originally published by the EPA on July 12, 2019. You can access more information here.


Registration provides benefits to growers and is supported by strong science that shows minimal risks for pollinators


Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a long-term approval for the insecticide sulfoxaflor  ̶  an effective tool to control challenging pests with fewer environmental impacts. After conducting an extensive risk analysis, including the review of one of the agency’s largest datasets on the effects of a pesticide on bees, EPA is approving the use of sulfoxaflor on alfalfa, corn, cacao, grains (millet, oats), pineapple, sorghum, teff, teosinte, tree plantations, citrus, cotton, cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, watermelons, some gourds), soybeans, and strawberries.

“EPA is providing long-term certainty for U.S. growers to use an important tool to protect crops and avoid potentially significant economic losses, while maintaining strong protection for pollinators,” said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Today’s decision shows the agency’s commitment to making decisions that are based on sound science.”

Sulfoxaflor is an important and highly effective tool for growers that targets difficult pests such as sugarcane aphids and tarnished plant bugs, also known as lygus. These pests can damage crops and cause significant economic loss. Additionally, there are few viable alternatives for sulfoxaflor for these pests. In many cases, alternative insecticides may be effective only if applied repeatedly or in a tank mix, whereas sulfoxaflor often requires fewer applications, resulting in less risk to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.

EPA’s registration also includes updated requirements for product labels, which will include crop-specific restrictions and pollinator protection language.

Background

In 2016, following a 2015 decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacating the registration of sulfoxaflor citing inadequate data on the effects on bees, EPA reevaluated the data and approved registrations that did not include crops that attract bees. The 2016 registration allowed fewer uses than the initial registration and included additional interim restrictions on application while new data on bees were being obtained. Today’s action, adding new uses, restoring previous uses, and removing certain application restrictions is backed by substantial data supporting the use of sulfoxaflor.

For additional information, please visit: www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/decision-register-insecticide-sulfoxaflor-limited-uses-and.

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