Groups Claim Fungicide Approved by EPA Harms Fish and Birds

The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit challenging the approval of a fungicide, which is reportedly toxic, without addressing its potentially “lethal” effects on endangered fish and birds. 

The petitioners claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the Endangered Species Act by registering the fungicide and that it should have consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The complaint said that the “EPA acknowledges this violation when it admits in their response to comments that the registration ‘does not include a complete ESA analysis and effects determinations for specific listed species or their designated critical habitat.’” 

The Centers said the fungicide would have negative environmental effects. In a press release they said it is toxic to fish, specifically endangered salmon and steelhead, and to birds, including whooping cranes. It also noted that the fungicide is “extremely persistent, remaining in the environment for years after use.” The release said the EPA broke a law in registering the fungicide which reportedly has no “obvious benefits,” and ignored the opinion of the National Academy of Sciences. 

The active ingredient in the fungicide is Inpyrfluxam. Ed Messina, Acting Director of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, reportedly approved the registration decision of the active ingredient on August 27, 2020. The decision included an evaluation of, among other things, the risks to human health, food and water, and the environment. It also included an accounting of the public comments made on the subject. 

The decision said, “In accordance with FIFRA, the EPA only registers a pesticide unconditionally when sufficient data has been submitted and it is determined that the uses will not cause unreasonable adverse effects on humans or the environment. This also takes into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of the pesticide …  Under FIFRA, the EPA is charged with balancing risks posed by the use of a pesticide against its benefits.” The EPA reportedly found low risks to human health and the environment during its evaluation. 

However, the petitioners disagreed; George Kimbrell, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, said, “It’s well past time for EPA to stop rubberstamping these toxic pesticides without meaningfully considering the costs and environmental harm … Instead of the endless stream of pesticides being quickly greenlit, our government should be standing up to industry pressure and protecting the public.” 

The petitioners are represented by attorneys with the Center for Biological Diversity