EPA Welcomed Industry Feedback Before Reversing Pesticide Ban, Ignoring Health Concerns – Sharon Lerner August 18 2017, 9:19 a.m.


Before the Environmental Protection Agency issued its March 29 decision to reverse a proposed ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, the agency considered information from industry groups that wanted to keep it on the market, according to internal agency documents. But the heavily redacted documents may be most notable for what they do not include.

The Intercept obtained internal emails, reports, and memos via a Freedom of Information Act request for materials used to brief EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on chlorpyrifos.

Although the documents reflect several direct communications between the EPA, big agricultural groups, and, in one instance, Donald Trump, they included no evidence that the agency met with environmental or public health groups or weighed concerns about the pesticide’s damaging effects. There was also no substantive discussion of the many studies detailing health effects. The story that emerges from the documents is a simple one of agricultural industry lobbying and, after its success, celebration.

Before the presidential election, the EPA had proposed banning chlorpyrifos based in part on evidence that the chemical causes lasting harm to children’s brains, including attention problems, memory loss, tremors, and autism. In reports issued in 2014 and 2015, the agency acknowledged research showing that children exposed to chlorpyrifos were more likely to have certain developmental problems. In November the EPA issued a report recommending a ban. A 90-day waiting period pushed the finalization of the ban into March, after Trump’s inauguration.

The industry argument for keeping chlorpyrifos on the market — that the pesticide is an essential tool for farmers — was well-represented in the documents. The issue came up at a March 1 meeting at EPA headquarters, where members of the Washington state chapter of the American Farm Bureau Federation met with Pruitt and requested a more “reasonable approach” to regulating chlorpyrifos. Don Benton, who was then serving as a senior White House adviser, assured the industry representatives that “the new administration is committed to developing new relationships between EPA and the agricultural community, a relationship based on partnerships, not on regulations and enforcement.”

EPA staff members were also in close communication with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, a group that wrote to Pruitt on March 8 expressing its opposition to the ban and met with EPA staff on March 29, the day the decision on chlorpyrifos was announced. Barbara Glenn, the group’s CEO, served as senior vice president of science and regulatory affairs for the pesticide industry group, CropLife America, from 2010 to 2014.

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Widely Used Pesticide Is a Buzzkill for Honeybees – By Leslie Nemo on June 30, 2017


Findings add fuel to the debate over whether a commonly used chemical damages insect populations

Credit: adegsm Getty Images

Honeybee stings ache for a good reason: This species knows how to brawl. But as it turns out, these black-and-yellow pollinators are quite vulnerable themselves—especially to neonicotinoids, a pesticide commonly used to ward off crop-munching pests. Two new studies, published this week in Science, address this question by studying large populations of bees in multiple locations for months on end. The results add substantial weight to the claim that neonicotinoids damage bee populations.

“I hope that my study kind of makes the debate go away,” says Amro Zayed, an entomologist who studies social insects at York University in Toronto and is co-author of one of the new reports. Even though honeybees are not the intended targets of neonicotinoids, any indication that the resilient insect is suffering from the chemical means less-adaptable species might be in trouble, too. The pesticide is intended to eradicate insects that chew up or suck on grain crops—which is why these substances coat almost all corn and 50 percent of soy seeds in the U.S. “It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find corn not treated with neonicotinoids,” says Shiela Colla, an ecologist also at York who is unaffiliated with the study research.

Most prior research on the bee–pesticide relationship has only involved feeding the chemicals to small populations in lab settings or observing a few populations in nature for a couple of weeks. Such stand-alone studies do not gather enough evidence on the true nature of honeybee behavior, Zayed says. Colla agrees, which is why she praises the York study’s sample size and length.

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