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Pesticide companies should be required to disclose data on dangerous chemical mixtures, says environmental group


(NaturalNews) A recent investigation led by the Center for Biological Diversity discovered that more than two-thirds of the pesticide products approved by the EPA for four major firms contained mixtures of pesticides that make the pesticides more poisonous than they are on their own.

In light of this finding, the center has petitioned the EPA to force pesticide companies to disclose data on the chemical mixtures they contain and their synergistic effects when trying to get the products approved. This synergy information is typically available in public patents, but the corporate giants do not appear to be sharing it with the EPA.

Interestingly, EPA regulations stated that pesticide synergy testing and data could be requested from pesticide companies back in 1984, but this provision was actually deleted in 2007 on the grounds that it was "unnecessary". Since then, the EPA has essentially looked the other way when it comes to the risks of various synergistic combinations in approving pesticides.

In the Center for Biological Diversity's investigation, 96 of 140 products recently approved by the EPA from four Big Ag firms – Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and Bayer – that contained two or more active ingredients that had at least one patent on file that claimed synergy.

Harm being greatly underestimated

The petition, which is addressed to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Office of Pesticide Programs Director Jack Housenger, emphasizes that the EPA is very likely to be underestimating the harm the pesticides it assesses are causing to the environment.

The petition points to the case of Enlist Duo, an herbicide that the EPA had once approved for use. The EPA said at the time that it was safe for everyone, including infants, developing fetuses, agricultural workers, the elderly, the environment, and endangered species. However, the herbicide contained a highly toxic mix of glyphosate and 2,4-D.

The Environmental Working Group petitioned the EPA to get the product's approval pulled. Glyphosate has been declared "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and it's been linked to birth defects, nervous system damage, and infertility. The other ingredient in Enlist Duo, 2,4-D, was actually the main ingredient of Agent Orange, which killed nearly 400,000 people in Vietnam and was responsible for more than half a million people being born with birth defects.

The EPA ultimately revoked its approval, stating that the product is more harmful than they initially believed after receiving new information on the synergistic effects between the two main ingredients.

The letter calls EnlistDuo "just the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem regarding the pesticide registration process."

It's also interesting to note that pesticides typically are required to have a synergistic effect in order to be eligible for a patent in the first place, which means that pesticide companies are claiming there is a synergistic effect in patent office filings while failing to mention such an effect when applying for EPA approval.

Gaming the system

The Center's Environmental Health Director, Lori Ann Burd, expressed dismay at the pesticide industry's ability to game the system for such a long period of time by giving one set of data to the Patent Office and another one to the EPA.

Pesticide companies might be able to get away with dishonesty when dealing with the EPA, but the facts don't lie. This practice highlights the importance of independent research that is free from industry collusion, which is increasingly hard to find.

Sources include:



BiologicalDiversity.org [PDF]


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