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The U.S. Lags Behind Other Nations In Banning Harmful Pesticides

Once again the USA lags behind other countries - this time in banning harmful pesticides. Dr. Nathan Donley at the Center for Biological Diversity in Oregon compared the world's 4 top agricultural producers (USA, Brazil, China, and European Union) in the use of 500 pesticides, and whether they allow or ban pesticides that have the most potential for harm to humans and the environment. He found that the US allows the use of 85 agricultural pesticides that are banned by at least one other nation. [Specifically: the US allows 72 agricultural pesticides that are banned or being phased out in the EU, 17 in Brazil, and 11 in China.]

This means that "Of the pesticides used in USA agriculture in 2016, 322 million pounds were of pesticides banned in the EU, 26 million pounds were of pesticides banned in Brazil, and 40 million pounds were of pesticides banned in China. Pesticides banned in the EU account for more than a quarter of all agricultural pesticide use in the USA." Yikes! These are the most harmful of the bunch and yet they're being used and contaminating our environment, our food, and us. Yes, pesticides are in almost all of us, and there a number of ways they get into us - whether inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested (e.g. in our food or water).

And look at the amount of all pesticides used annually in these 4 top agricultural producers and exporters. In 2016 the USA used 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides, China used 3.9 billion pounds, Brazil used 831 million pounds, and the EU used 827 million pounds. It's a lot!

A disturbing finding was that currently the USA exclusively  uses voluntary cancellation of pesticides - which are initiated by the pesticide industry, while the EU, China, and Brazil mainly have bans that are initiated by their regulatory industries. It's no wonder that dangerous pesticides aren't being banned in the United States. And the one pesticide that was recently scheduled to be banned (chlorpyrifos) wasn't, because an industry-friendly administration took control of the EPA before the ban was enacted.

The study itself is easy to relatively easy to read: The USA lags behind other agricultural nations in banning harmful pesticides

Or here is a nice write-up from Beyond Pesticides: 85 Pesticides Banned Around the World Account For A Quarter of U.S. Use 

The U.S. allows the use of 85 pesticides that have been banned or are being phased out in the European Union, China or Brazil, according to a peer-reviewed study published last week by the academic journal Environmental Health.

In 2016, the U.S. used 322 million pounds of pesticides that are banned in the E.U., accounting for more than one-quarter of all agricultural pesticide use in this country, according to the study. U.S. applicators also used 40 million pounds of pesticides that are banned or being phased out in China and 26 million pounds of pesticides that are banned or being phased out in Brazil.

“It’s appalling the U.S. lags so far behind these major agricultural powers in banning harmful pesticides,” said Nathan Donley, PhD, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the study. “The fact that we’re still using hundreds of millions of pounds of poisons other nations have wisely rejected as too risky spotlights our dangerously lax approach to phasing out hazardous pesticides.”

The study compared the approval status of more than 500 pesticides used in outdoor applications in the world’s four largest agricultural economies: the United States, European Union, China and Brazil. The U.S. EPA continues to allow use of 85 pesticides for outdoor agricultural applications that are banned or in the process of being completely phased out elsewhere, including 72 in the E.U., 17 in Brazil and 11 in China. The U.S. has banned only four pesticides still approved for use in the E.U., Brazil or China.

The study concludes that deficiencies in the U.S. pesticide regulatory process are the likely cause of the country failing to ban or phase out pesticides that the E.U., China and Brazil have prohibited. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act gives the U.S. EPA significant discretion on which pesticides to cancel and makes the EPA-initiated, nonvoluntary cancellation process particularly onerous and politically fraught. This has, in effect, made pesticide cancellation in the U.S. largely a voluntary endeavor by the pesticide industry itself. As a result, pesticide cancellations in the U.S. are more often economic decisions rather than decisions made to protect human or environmental health.

“Bans are the most effective way to prevent exposures to highly hazardous pesticides and can spur the transition to safer alternatives,” said Dr. Donley. “A combination of weak laws and the EPA’s broken pesticide regulatory process has allowed the pesticide industry to dictate which pesticides stay in use. That process undermines the safety of agricultural workers and anyone who eats food and drinks water in this country.”

The U.S. EPA’s Pesticide Office has come under intense scrutiny in recent years as a result of numerous scandals, including:

  • Ignoring its own established protocols to conclude that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, does not cause cancer, a finding that’s at odds with the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry;
  • Its refusal to protect endangered species from pesticides, even when it’s been demonstrated by other federal agencies that use of the chemicals could put certain species at risk of extinction;
  • The agency’s industry-motivated decision to overturn a long-overdue ban on chlorpyrifos despite compelling evidence that it harms the brains of children;
  • The recent approval of the largest ever expansion of medically-important antibiotics for use in plant agriculture, ignoring strong concerns about increased antibiotic resistance from the FDA, CDC and public health officials;
  • Having to change the instructions on the dicamba pesticide label twice after the drift-prone pesticide damaged a reported 5 million acres of crops, trees and backyard gardens over the last two years.
  • Its liberal use of an “emergency” exemption loophole that allows unapproved pesticides to be used for routine, foreseeable situations for many consecutive years.

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