Chemical Industry Pay-to-Play Regulation Threatens Public Health

March 28, 2019

User fees create a regulatory system ripe for corruption. Action Alert!

We at ANH-USA have written many times before about how the FDA is beholden to the pharmaceutical industry: through drug user fees, Big Pharma pays the FDA to review its products, giving the FDA a bias towards the drug industry. But many Americans may not be aware that the chemical industry has a similar scheme at the EPA that is exposing us to dangerous pesticides, the safety of which have not been confirmed. To protect our health, we must root out this cronyism.

All pesticides used in the US need to be registered at the EPA. Chemical companies must submit data from studies that follow EPA guidelines that attest to the safety of the pesticide for human health and the environment. In 2004, Congress passed a law that allowed the EPA to collect fees from companies for reviewing products. It has been reauthorized a number of times since, most recently this year.

Fees change depending on the proposed use and type of chemical. For example, the fee for reviewing a new active ingredient in a pesticide to be used on food is $569,221. To review a chemical for its first food use, the cost is $239,684.

This kind of pay-to-play scheme is exactly the kind of thing the government should not be involved in.

The point is that EPA registration fees open the door to all kinds of cronyism. For example, there is a loophole at the EPA that allows companies to market and sell a pesticide without having to submit all the necessary data. This happens in “conditional registration,” which allows a chemical to enter the market while the company generates missing data requested by the EPA. Conditional registration was meant to be used in emergencies if a chemical was needed to, for instance, prevent a disease outbreak. But an analysis found that 65% of currently registered pesticides have been conditionally registered. The analysis also concluded that the EPA did not have systems in place to ensure that the additional data requested by the agency had been submitted by industry and reviewed by EPA staff.

Clothianidin, a neonicotinoid, is a case in point. This chemical was granted conditional approval in 2003 to treat corn and canola seed. The EPA at the time said that registration was conditioned upon the submission of a field study of the chemical’s effect on bees by 2004. The company, Bayer, didn’t submit any study until 2007, three years late, and the study suffered from so many flaws that the EPA considered it “invalid.” Despite all this, the chemical remains on the market under conditional registration. Clothianidin has been found to be immunotoxic and neurotoxic in humans, while also adversely effecting aquatic animals and bees.

The EPA is essentially telling the chemical industry: “Don’t have the data to prove your chemical is safe for humans and/or the environment? Don’t worry! Just pay us our fee, we’ll give you conditional approval, and we won’t follow up for more data.”

We must put a stop to this disregard for public and environmental health. One of the reasons we are so chronically sick as a nation is the cumulative effect of the toxic substances we’re exposed to day in and day out. These pesticides are on the food we eat and serve our families we can’t let industry and their government cronies continue to undermine our health.

Action Alert! Write to Congress and tell them to revoke pesticide registration fees. Please send your message immediately.

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