The alarm keeps sounding. Today, six months after we released our report on EPA’s misuse of the conditional registration process to get pesticides to market, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, confirmed what we found: EPA needs to improve its oversight of conditionally registered pesticides.
In our report, we presented case studies of two pesticides – clothianidin and nanosilver – highlighting how the pesticide program has let pesticides to market improperly. The GAO report identified two more pesticides – foramsulfuron and acetamiprid – that were conditionally registered with poor follow-through by the agency. In the case of foramsulfuron, the pesticide company was given two years to submit studies on the effects on plants, but ten years later, nothing had been submitted. The other pesticide - acetamiprid is part of the neonicitinoid pesticide family, which has recently been implicated in bee kills. While the pesticide company did submit the data on honeybees as requested, ten years later, EPA still had not reviewed that data.
Unfortunately, the GAO report falls short on calling EPA out on these failures. Instead, it focuses on improving EPA’s database on conditional registrations, guidance to train its employees on how to enter data into that database, and improving EPA’s communications to the public about conditional registrations. While these changes will help with some of EPA’s problems, much more is needed.
First, EPA should cancel all conditionally registered pesticides that are missing toxicity data like clothianidin and nanosilver. Pesticides should be kept off the market until the data show that they can be used without causing any adverse impacts to the environment or to human health.
Second, going forward, EPA should limit how it uses the conditional registration process and only conditionally register pesticides when there is a pressing public health crisis requiring that pesticide. In the case of nanosilver, a dangerous chemical missing toxicity data is being allowed to flood the market to keep clothes, shoes, and other textiles from smelling bad. We do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs for such a purported public health benefit.
The GAO offers some good first steps, but EPA still needs to do more.