The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a proposed decision that residues of carbofuran, a toxic pesticide that is used on a variety of crops, will no longer be allowed on food. This effectively means that carbofuran will have to be removed from the U.S. market, benefiting consumers and farm workers, as well as birds, which are frequently poisoned by the deadly chemical.
“This is a huge victory for the environment. EPA is to be congratulated for taking such decisive action to eliminate the dangers posed by carbofuran,” said Dr. Michael Fry, American Bird Conservancy’s Director of Conservation Advocacy. “This decision is based on overwhelming scientific evidence and sends a clear signal to manufacturers that it doesn’t pay to fight the cancellation of products proven to be harmful.”
The move by EPA is the latest in a long battle to halt all uses of carbofuran (sold under the trade name Furadan). In August of 2006, EPA announced its intention to cancel carbofuran registration due to hazards to birds, other wildlife and people. However, carbofuran manufacturer FMC Corporation is pursuing a court battle so that it can keep selling the pesticide. This is the first time in twenty years that a pesticide manufacturer has fought cancellation of a registered pesticide.
EPA also announced that following the revocation of food tolerances, it will continue to pursue cancellation of the product. By revoking all food tolerances, it has the effect of speeding its removal from the market. In addition, the decision applies to imported food, which will help eliminate the use of carbofuran in countries that export rice, coffee and bananas to the United States. The decision will go into effect following a public comment period and the issuance of a final notice by the agency.
“EPA’s revocation of tolerances for residues of this toxic pesticide is urgently needed to protect America’s public health, and it will have enormous benefits for America’s wildlife and birds as well,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.
Carbofuran is 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. 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 per cent 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.
In 2007, the deliberate misapplication of carbofuran by a Colorado farmer killed over 2,200 migratory birds, including Mourning Doves, Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles. The farmer pleaded guilty in federal court for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Other 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.
American Bird Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation and worker protection organizations campaigned for many years to have carbofuran removed from the market. The groups heralded EPA’s decision to cancel registration of the chemical in February 2008 as a clear victory for the environment. Groups supporting the cancellation include : American Bird Conservancy, Alaska Bird Observatory, Archbold Biological Station, Beyond Pesticides, Bird Conservation Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Habitats League, Friends of Dyke Marsh, Hampshire Bird Club, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, Riveredge Bird Club, Seattle Audubon Society, Taku Conservation Society, Tennessee Ornithological Society, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, The Institute for Bird Populations, Virginia Society of Ornithology, Washington Toxics Coalition, Wildlife Center of Virginia, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, World Wildlife Fund, Xerces Society, Maryland Ornithological Society.
More details about EPA’s announcement are available at: