19 July 2022, San Francisco: In a major win for conservationists and wildlife, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ordered the Environmental Protection Agency today to review the potential harm a toxic new fungicide poses to endangered species by June 2023.
In 2020 the EPA approved use of the fungicide inpyrfluxam on some of the most widely grown U.S. crops, including corn, soy, grains, beans, sugar beets, apples and peanuts. The approval came despite compelling research showing the pesticide to be “very highly toxic” to fish, including endangered salmon and steelhead, and showing that it poses substantial risks to large birds, including whooping cranes. It is also extremely persistent, remaining in the environment for years after use.
“I’m very pleased the court gave the EPA a firm deadline to fully explore the harm this toxic new pesticide poses to endangered species,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision should send a clear message that the EPA can no longer ignore its duty to make sure new pesticides don’t push imperiled wildlife, like salmon, closer to extinction.”
The EPA’s 2020 inpyrfluxam approval ignored the expert opinion of the National Academy of Sciences, which recommended the agency develop a new process to analyze risk to endangered species that was more informative and protective. The EPA announced a policy for new pesticide approvals in January of this year because previous approvals resulted in “insufficient protections” for endangered species.
“EPA must stop rubberstamping these toxic pesticides without meaningfully considering the costs and environmental harm,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. “We need our government to stand up to industry pressure, comply with the law and protect the environment from dangerous pesticides.”
In April the EPA released its first-ever comprehensive workplan to address the challenge of protecting endangered species from pesticides. Last month the agency announced two pilot programs focused on reforming the pesticide-approval process to correct violations of the Endangered Species Act.