EPA Bans Deadly Pesticide Responsible for Millions of Bird Deaths
(Washington, D.C. – May 11, 2009) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced its final decision to revoke all food tolerances for the highly toxic pesticide carbofuran, which is sold under the name “Furadan” by FMC Corporation. The agency’s announcement confirms a proposed action first announced in July 2008. FMC Corp. will have the opportunity to challenge the decision within 90 days with a petition to stay the rule. When the rule becomes final, EPA will proceed with the cancellation of registration for all uses of the pesticide.
“Carbofuran causes neurological damage in humans, and one of the most deadly pesticides to birds left on the market. It is responsible for the deaths of millions of wild birds since its introduction in 1967, including Bald and Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and migratory songbirds,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy. “This EPA decision marks a huge victory for wildlife and the environment.”
This rule becomes effective December 31, 2009 to allow for commodities in storage to be used. Most uses of carbofuran on food crops were voluntarily cancelled in March 2009, effective immediately, so that most uses of the pesticide have been cancelled for the 2009 growing season. Today’s announcement is available at http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/30118530d0b774d7852575b30059aa8c?OpenDocument.
In its 2005 ecological risk assessment on carbofuran, EPA stated that all legal uses of the pesticide were likely to kill wild birds. If a flock of mallards were to feed in a carbofuran treated alfalfa field, EPA predicted that 92% of the birds in the flock would quickly die. EPA analysis has also confirmed that carbofuran is a threat to human health through contaminated food, drinking water, and occupational exposure.
Following objections to the proposed ban by FMC Corporation, a government Scientific Advisory Panel reviewed the decision and agreed with EPA in 2008 that the pesticide poses an unreasonable risk to the environment, particularly birds, and that there was no evidence to recommend reversing EPA’s decision to cancel carbofuran.
“Despite overwhelming scientific evidence of carbofuran’s extreme toxicity and the availability of safer alternatives, FMC Corporation continued to do everything it could to keep this chemical on the market,” said Dr. Michael Fry, ABC’s Director of Conservation Advocacy. “We congratulate EPA for standing up for science and the public interest in the face of an industry pressure campaign.”
Carbofuran first came under fire in the 1980s after an EPA Special Review estimated that over a million birds were killed each year by the granular formulation. Many of these die-off incidents followed applications of carbofuran that were made with extraordinary care. The granular formation was cancelled in 1994, but the liquid form has remained on the market.
“The revocation of all food tolerances has international implications, as imports of rice, coffee, bananas and sugarcane were previously allowed to contain residues of carbofuran,” said Dr. Fry. “After this revocation, countries wishing to export these foods to the US must stop using carbofuran on these four major crops.”
Rice and coffee are particularly important, as many US birds over wintering in Latin America use coffee and rice fields as winter habitats. American Bird Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned EPA to cancel all import tolerances for pesticide residues on food, and this decision complies with the ABC/NRDC petition.
Incidents of bird poisonings by carbofuran are documented in the Avian Incident Monitoring System (www.abcbirds.org/aims) operated by American Bird Conservancy in cooperation with the EPA and state and federal wildlife agencies. In addition to killing birds when used legally, carbofuran is often illegally used in poison baits intended to kill wildlife in agricultural areas and grazing lands. This abuse has resulted in the deaths of raptors including Bald and Golden Eagles in violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
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American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is the only organization that works solely to conserve native wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC is a not-for-profit membership organization that is consistently awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group Charity Navigator. ABC’s Pesticides and Birds Campaign aims to reduce the exposure of wild birds to hazardous pesticides. For more information seehttp://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/pesticides/index.html.