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EPA Crafts Pesticide Label Plan

by Cookson Beecher
Capital Press, November 11, 2005

It's not going to happen immediately, but growers will eventually be able to use pesticide labels to access information about the appropriate use of specific pesticides in specific areas.

This "label strategy" is part of an Environmental Protection Agency program designed to protect species listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency published a notice about this program -- the Endangered Species Protection Program -- in the Nov. 2 Federal Register.

The goal of the program is to evaluate the effects of pesticides on protected species to ensure that the pesticides will not jeopardize them or designated critical habitat.

The labels will play an important part in that.

According to EPA, the program will not place unnecessary burdens on the agriculture community and other pesticide users.

The limitations on pesticide use will be enforceable under federal law.

EPA spokeswoman Arty Williams said the label requirement doesn't change anything for farmers and ranchers "for the moment."

But as the agency looks at the risk of a chemical on protected species, the company that produces a product that is likely to harm any protected species will have to put a label on the product.

That label will direct farmers to a website that will show them a map of the county where they intend to use the pesticide and what they have to do differently when they use it.

For farmers who don't feel comfortable using the Internet, a toll-free phone number will be listed on the label. Williams said the EPA will either mail or fax the information to farmers who request a hard copy.

The agency currently assesses about 50 pesticides a year. As it goes through the assessments, it determines how the pesticides affect protected species.

Taking this time line into account, Williams said, the "labels will be trickling out."

The agency has been trying to put this sort of program into place for a long time as part of its responsibility under the Endangered Species Act, said Williams.

"The court found that we weren't in compliance, so we have to reassess how every pesticide affects 1,200 protected species," she said, adding that these species include fish, plants, birds, butterflies and mammals.

CropLife America hailed the agency's progress on this program, saying that it will benefit listed species, farmers, pesticide registrants and the general public.

"There will be a definitive process in place to ensure that products that are registered are in compliance with the Endangered Species Act," said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America.

He said the action caps a 15-year process of consultations and review by the EPA and other wildlife agencies to address how pesticide labels should be designed to protect endangered species.

Vroom said EPA is charged with evaluating the ecological effects of pesticides under both the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

Vroom also praised the latest action by EPA because consultation schedules and pesticide-use requirements "will be set by the responsible agencies, instead of by the trial bar and courts."

"Listed species will be better protected because pesticide risk assessments for endangered species will be able to be completed in a timely manner," said Vroom.

Some conservationists see it otherwise, faulting the program for being "sorely inadequate to ensure compliance with restrictions on pesticides."

They also describe it as a "don't-ask-don't-tell" program because information on pesticide restrictions will be "hidden" on EPA's website rather than communicated directly to pesticide users.

"We've waited close to 20 years for EPA to protect endangered plants and animals from pesticides," said Aime Code of the Oregon-based Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. "The resulting program is a slap in the face to anyone who wants future generations to enjoy our nation's wildlife and the special place they call home."

Cookson Beecher, Washington State Staff Writer
EPA Crafts Pesticide Label Plan
Capital Press, November 11, 2005

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