Science Panel Agrees with Pesticide Ban Which Followed Millions of Bird Deaths
Cat Lazaroff, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-3270, [email protected]
EPA Under Pressure to Keep Banned Pesticide on Market
(Washington, D.C. - February 11, 2008) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is under pressure from a pesticide manufacturer and members of Congress to reverse an August 30, 2006 decision to cancel the registration of all uses of the highly toxic pesticide carbofuran, which is sold under the name "Furadan" by FMC Corporation. A Scientific Advisory Panel reviewed the decision last week and agreed with EPA that the pesticide poses an unreasonable risk to the environment, particularly birds, and that there was no evidence to recommend reversing EPA's decision to cancel carbofuran.
"Those who support keeping carbofuran on the market are stating their clear indifference to conserving wildlife and to exposing workers to toxins," said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy. "Carbofuran is harmful to human health, and one of the most deadly pesticides to birds left on the market. It is responsible for the deaths of millions of wild birds since its introduction in 1967, including Bald and Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and migratory songbirds. EPA has already said a firm no to the continued use of this substance, and lawmakers need to listen to the experts on this."
In its 2005 ecological risk assessment on carbofuran, EPA stated that all legal uses of the pesticide were likely to kill wild birds. If a flock of mallards were to feed in a carbofuran treated alfalfa field, EPA predicted that 92% of the birds in the flock would quickly die. EPA analysis has also confirmed that carbofuran is a threat to human health through contaminated food, drinking water, and occupational exposure.
"This is the first time in twenty years that a pesticide manufacturer has fought cancellation of a registered pesticide," said Dr. Michael Fry, Director of ABC's Pesticides and Birds Campaign. "The EPA's decision to ban carbofuran was a huge victory for science and the environment, but despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of carbofuran's extreme toxicity and the availability of safer alternatives, the manufacturer continues to fight all efforts on the part of the EPA and conservationists to have the ban enacted. FMC Corporation needs to take the responsible course and immediately withdraw carbofuran from the market."
"The evidence is clear; carbofuran is toxic to wildlife and people. EPA should not fold to political pressures and allow this dangerous pesticide back on the market," said Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife. "In 2006, more than 20,000 of our members and activists asked EPA to take carbofuran off the market. EPA made the right decision in 2006 and they should stick by that decision now."
In 2007, the deliberate misapplication of carbofuran by a Colorado farmer killed over 2,200 migratory birds, including Mourning Doves, Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles. The farmer pleaded guilty in federal court for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Other incidents of bird poisonings by carbofuran are documented in the Avian Incident Monitoring System (www.abcbirds.org/aims) operated by American Bird Conservancy in cooperation with the EPA and state and federal wildlife agencies. The Birds in Agricultural Areas (www.abcbirds.org/biaa) database also documents significant bird use in the major crops where carbofuran is sprayed. Continued use of carbofuran will only lead to more incidents such as the recent bird kill in Colorado.
In addition to killing birds when used legally, carbofuran is often illegally used in poison baits intended to kill wildlife in agricultural areas and grazing lands. This abuse has resulted in the deaths of raptors including Bald and Golden Eagles.
American Bird Conservancy and other conservation and worker protection organizations campaigned for many years to have carbofuran removed from the market. They heralded EPA's decision as a clear victory for the environment, and one that was long overdue. Groups supporting the cancellation include: American Bird Conservancy, Alaska Bird Observatory, Archbold Biological Station, Beyond Pesticides, Bird Conservation Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Habitats League, Friends of Dyke Marsh, Hampshire Bird Club, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, Riveredge Bird Club, Seattle Audubon Society, Taku Conservation Society, Tennessee Ornithological Society, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, The Institute for Bird Populations, Virginia Society of Ornithology, Washington Toxics Coalition, Wildlife Center of Virginia, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, World Wildlife Fund, Xerces Society, Maryland Ornithological Society.
Carbofuran first came under fire in the 1980s after an EPA Special Review estimated that over a million birds were killed each year by the granular formulation. According to scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service there are "no known conditions under which carbofuran can be used without killing migratory birds. Many of these die-off incidents followed applications of carbofuran that were made with extraordinary care." The granular formation was cancelled in 1994, but the liquid form remains on the market.
Carbofuran is one of the most heavily used insecticides in the world, but its extreme toxicity to farm workers and wildlife has made it very dangerous to use. EPA's cancellation will likely have a domino effect internationally, as other countries frequently follow EPA's lead.
In 1974 Congress passed the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), to require stricter controls on pesticides, and to encourage the development of less toxic alternatives to older chemicals. More than 1,000 alternative pesticides have since been registered, but a few "dinosaur chemicals", such as carbofuran, have remained on the market because they were grandfathered into the regulations when FIFRA was passed.
Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996, which set higher standards for pesticide registration and residues in food, and gave EPA a deadline of ten years to re-evaluate the most dangerous pesticides. EPA's announcement to cancel the registration of carbofuran happened on the precise day of the ten year deadline.
Once implemented, the cancellation will be effective for all uses of carbofuran: alfalfa, corn, cotton, cotton, potatoes, and rice. The cancellation will be phased out over four years for other minor uses including artichokes, chili peppers in the southwest, cucumbers, spinach for seed, sunflowers, and pine seedlings. Unfortunately, the cancellation will not apply to use on some major imported agricultural products. The EPA is still allowing the importation of rice, coffee, bananas, and sugarcane with carbofuran residues in the commodities, posing risks to US consumers and putting US growers at a competitive disadvantage. American Bird Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council have recently petitioned EPA to cancel these import tolerances for pesticide residues on food.
Assorted letters to EPA concerning carbofuran cancellation (including letters from Members of Congress), http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-0162. Document number EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-0162-0487 dated February 5, 2008.
Comment letter from FMC Corporation, http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocumentDetail&o=09000064803a0c8e.
Comment letter from Dr. Michael Fry, American Bird Conservancy, http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-0162.
Comment letter from Dr. Jennifer Sass, Natural Resources Defense Council, http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocumentDetail&o=09000064803a5bc2.
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American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is the only organization that works solely to conserve native wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC is a not-for-profit membership organization that is consistently awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group Charity Navigator. ABC's Pesticides and Birds Campaign aims to reduce the exposure of wild birds to hazardous pesticides. For more information see http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/pesticides/index.html.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.