Why Is the EPA Allowing Farms to Use Banned Pesticides?

Did you know that the EPA has the authority to allow farms to use banned pesticides? Rules allow the EPA to grant these exceptions on an “emergency” basis, though logic would dictate that the emergency would need to be extreme considering the long-term emergencies that would be created from spreading dangerous chemicals.

However, as the Center for Biological Diversity has discovered, the EPA has been pretty loosey goosey when it comes to approving these exceptions. Over the last six years, the agency has permitted 78 companies/farms to use sulfoxaflor despite the pesticide’s known danger.

In the past, a U.S. appeals court had to block the EPA from allowing sulfoxaflor because of how overwhelmingly toxic it is to bees, particularly amidst a bee die-off. Evidently, the EPA could still grant exceptions, and did so pretty freely, even without sufficient proof of an emergency.

Typically, something like an influx of crop-destroying bugs could constitute an emergency in order to allow for problematic chemicals. Over time, though, the EPA got in the habit of approving most requests and started fast tracking the process for farms to use otherwise banned pesticides without sufficient review.

Paperwork for these “emergencies” did not reflect substantial problems that would warrant the use of sulfoxaflor. Many sites were allowed to continue using the banned pesticide year after year due to the same supposed emergency.

Unsurprisingly, this process lacked transparency. Just eight of the 78 exceptions went through a formal review process in which the public could comment or object to the pesticide’s use. Pretty much all of the applications were approved in closed-door meetings with the EPA taking the agricultural businesses’ word on why they needed sulfoxaflor.

In fact, every single time a farm requested to use sulfoxaflor on either cotton or sorghum (a cereal grain), it was approved. Because bees love sorghum, sulfoxaflor has never been formally allowed on the grain. As for cotton, the EPA exceptions fly in the face of a court ruling that explicitly said the pesticide shouldn’t be used on cotton because there’s demonstrable harm to pollinators.

“This 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 Stephanie Parent, a leading lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity and coauthor of the report. “This dangerous, secretive practice puts people and wildlife at ongoing risk, and it needs to stop.”

Altogether, the EPA allowed sulfoxaflor on 17.5 million acres of farms. The EPA neglected to research (or at least release any research) as to what kind of damage could be caused by granting this many exceptions.

While it’s no secret that the EPA has been an ecological nightmare since Scott Pruitt took over at the start of 2017, this problem dates back well before Trump administration entered the picture. Shame on an agency that is tasked with safeguarding the environment for bowing to corporate interests with little concern for the consequences.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

113 comments

Fiona O
Fiona Ogilvie2 days ago

I am disgusted that greed rules the EPA.....so much for the health of the enviroment and the people. I will share this on facebook and twitter.

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Jim V
Jim Ven3 days ago

thank you

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Jim V
Jim Ven3 days ago

thank you

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Jerome S
Jerome S3 days ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S3 days ago

thanks

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Toni W
Toni W9 days ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W9 days ago

TYFS

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Angela J
Angela J10 days ago

Thank you.

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Catherine Z
Catherine Z13 days ago

Every time I turn around something else is poisoning our food. Fed up.

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Danuta W
Danuta W15 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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