A Banner Week for Banning Pesticides
Pesticides are disappearing from croplands, orchards and hardware stores in a major shift toward more sustainable agriculture.
It’s been a great week for nature—less so for chemical companies that manufacture powerful pesticides. Three knockout victories for Earthjustice and our partner groups are delivering an uppercut to industry heavyweights like Dow and Monsanto.
A Dow Pesticide, De-Listed
The EPA recently asked the court to revoke EPA approval of Enlist Duo, which contains glyphosate and 2,4-D, ingredients found in Roundup and Agent Orange. The agency cited additional evidence that the two chemicals amplify one another’s effects, likely making Enlist Duo much more harmful than it originally believed.
The EPA had OK’d Enlist Duo for use in 15 states and was looking to expand approvals. Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety, on behalf of a coalition of groups, challenged the EPA’s failure to seek the advice and approval of wildlife experts regarding the impacts of Enlist Duo on endangered plants and animals before approving the pesticide.
Spraying Enlist Duo on crops genetically engineered to withstand it was Dow AgroScience’s answer to weeds resistant to Roundup alone that are sprouting out of control on millions of acres of U.S. farmland. But some “superweeds” have already developed resistance to 2,4-D—the Agent Orange ingredient. [Read how superweeds got started in this Q&A with pesticide expert Charles Benbrooke.]
"With this action, the EPA confirms the toxic nature of this lethal cocktail of chemicals, and has stepped back from the brink," says Earthjustice Managing Attorney Paul Achitoff. “This must not, and will not, be how we grow our food."
Californians Are Spared a Pesticide Shower
Earthjustice and the city of San Francisco challenged California’s senseless light brown apple moth pesticide program and an appeals court agreed to terminate it. The light brown apple moth has done no documented damage to any California crops or wild plants. Still, the state went ahead with aerial spraying in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties in 2007 and planned to spray the San Francisco Bay Area for seven years to control the apple moth.
The state tried to pull a fast one when it changed the goal of the program at the last minute from a one-time “eradication” of the apple moth to an effort to “control” its population for an indefinite period of time. The state didn’t study the environmental impacts of an indefinite spraying regime, nor did it consider less harmful alternatives for pest control.
“This case is about looking before you leap,” says Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie. “The [state] tried to impose this spraying program on the public without real environmental review, and the court has rightly called foul.”
Bees Now Welcome on Home Depot Blooms
Home Depot, the largest home improvement store chain in the world, announced that it has removed neonicotinoid pesticides from 80 percent of the flowering plants it sells and will completely phase out the bee-killing pesticides on live plants by 2018. The chain already requires suppliers to label plants that come pre-treated with neonics.
The pesticide ban comes in response to a concerted, multi-year campaign by Friends of the Earth, co-promoted by Earthjustice. Friends of the Earth is continuing to press Home Depot to stop selling neonics in its off-the-shelf products and to pressure other major retailers like Ace Hardware and True Value to get on board.
“Home Depot’s progress in removing neonics shows it is listening to consumer concerns and to the growing body of science telling us we need to move away from bee-toxic pesticides,” said Lisa Archer, Food and Technology program director at Friends of the Earth U.S. “Bees are the canary in the coal mine for our food system and everyone, including the business community, must act quickly to protect them.”
As evidence mounts that neonics harm native pollinators like bees and butterflies, regulators and the courts are beginning to take notice. In response to an Earthjustice suit, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently threw out the EPA’s approval of the neonic sulfoxaflor. And back in April, the EPA placed a moratorium on new uses of neonicotinoids. [Read Loarie’s answers to the public’s questions about what our case means for America’s bees and beekeepers.]
These three victories are a big step forward in the fight to keep our environment safe from harmful chemicals, but there’s still more work to be done. If you want to take a stand against pesticide use, consider lending your voice to our petition in support of an EPA ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that can poison farmworkers who apply it and cause developmental delays in children exposed to it when it’s sprayed on our food crops. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just ordered the EPA to decide once and for all on a chlorpyrifos ban by December of 2016.
A journalist and graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Heather was the associate editor from 2015–2017.