Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United (known by their Spanish initials PCUN) and the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) today announced an agreement with the U.S. EPA concerning future uses of vinclozolin, a fungicide used widely in Oregon on snap beans. For four years, the groups have challenged the use of the pesticide on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The challenges led to a phase out of most uses of vinclozolin. Under the agreement signed August 28, EPA must give PCUN and the Coalition notice of any proposed use and respond to any issues the groups raise before considering future requests to use this pesticide.
Vinclozolin disrupts the proper function of hormonal systems in animals by blocking male sex hormones. The scientific literature has documented disturbing effects in developing fetuses when pregnant females are exposed to the chemical.
"EPA had flouted the law and the health of farm workers and consumers exposed to vinclozolin by allowing its use on numerous fruits and vegetables," said Patti Goldman, senior attorney with Earthjustice in Seattle. "Our appeals spurred EPA to crack down on this pesticide, and this agreement ensures that EPA will not secretly reinstate the cancelled uses," she added.
"This agreement is designed to provide more information to farm workers who are on the front lines of exposure to this dangerous pesticide," said Ramon Ramirez, president of PCUN. "Our hope is that these procedures will permanently stop the regulatory abuses that spanned fourteen years and got us involved in this issue in the first place."
Although the EPA announced a multi-year phase out of the pesticide, the agency has indicated to agricultural industry representatives that it will leave open the opportunity to apply for an emergency exemption once the phase out has occurred in order to continue vinclozolin's use on snap beans. Under the agreement conservation and farmworker groups will be notified by EPA before an emergency exemption is even considered.
"When pesticides are sprayed directly on food, some of the chemical inevitably ends up where we don't want it, including on the food that we all eat," said Norma Grier, executive director of the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP). "By having a more transparent process, we can do a better job of protecting the health of both farm workers and consumers," she added.