EPA’s Pesticides Office Labeled as a Failure
Groups Push Array of Immediate Reforms
Washington, DC (October 26, 2021) – The Office of Pesticides Programs within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has become so captured by industry that it has lost sight of its health and environmental mission, according to a scathing critique issued today by 37 environmental, public health, and sustainable agriculture groups, including beekeeper councils. Led by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and Beyond Pesticides, the groups are urging the Biden administration to adopt reforms within OPP to ensure pesticide approval and use decisions are science-based.
EPA’s OPP has registered more than 18,000 separate pesticide products — far more than any other country — and more than 2 billion pounds of pesticides are sold annually in the U.S. They are used annually over roughly 250 million acres of farmland, across millions of acres of urban and suburban lands, and inside millions of homes, schools, and other buildings.
The coalition letter points to employee reports that managers within OPP –
- Push through “Yes packages” of pesticide approvals greased by industry lobbying;
- Suppress toxicological and other concerns raised by professional staff; and
- Engage in outrageous waivers of vital toxicity study requirements, instead relying on “conditional” registrations to allow pesticide uses, despite missing key data. Seeing these waivers as accomplishments, OPP managers recently threw a party to “celebrate 1,000 studies waived,” with a notation in the staff invitation that “cake will be served.”
“EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs has bent so far over backwards to accommodate industry desires that it is now beyond chiropractic help – major surgery is required,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Peter Jenkins, noting that while problems within OPP worsened under Trump, they preexisted his term but continue today. “Inside OPP, marginalization of science remains cause for celebration and the result has been repeated ecological and public health disasters.”
The letter recounts a litany of improper pesticide approvals decisions, some of which were blocked in court, while still others are being reversed under Biden. But, the groups say these cases are symptomatic of a larger institutional illness that calls for thoroughgoing reforms.
The cumulative effects of years and decades of this regulatory abuse are untold human deaths, disabilities, and illnesses. Industry has been forced to pay out billions of dollars for damages claims over OPP-approved products. The groups also point to the decline of pollinators – the key to American food security – due to the indiscriminate application of highly potent pesticides. The health of non-target wildlife, as well as our soil and waters, is under chemical siege. Even pets are at risk from irresponsibly approved flea and tick control products.
“We call on the Biden Administration to be a hero for health – the fastest thing it can do is immediately revoke the worst pesticides,” said Beyond Pesticides CEO Jay Feldman, pointing to the 25 specific steps the coalition identifies that OPP can take to avoid or mitigate its mistakes going forward, all within its current authority. “Horror stories have piled up for too long and Americans no longer are safe from the very agency charged with protecting them.”