Two days after Michael Regan was confirmed as the new EPA Administrator, PAN delivered 22,863 of our supporters’ signatures to his desk, urging him to act quickly to get some of the most dangerous pesticides off the market.
With complete disregard of scientific evidence, the previous administration had approved the following hazardous chemicals for continued or expanded use: aldicarb, atrazine, chlorpyrifos, dicamba, glyphosate, isoxaflutole, paraquat and sulfoxaflor. We called for immediate review and reversal of these decisions.
Out of the gate, our community sent a strong message to the Biden administration about the importance of taking urgent action to protect farmworkers, farmers, rural communities, and children from health-harming chemicals. But we know this is just the first step.
An encouraging course correction
On day one of his administration, President Biden signed an Executive Order on public health and the environment, ordering federal agencies to reinsert science into policymaking, limit exposure to pesticides and other dangerous chemicals, and hold corporations accountable for contaminating low-income communities and communities of color.
The new administration also committed to several high-level priorities, including urgently addressing both the climate crisis and racial injustice, making these shared objectives across all agencies of the federal government.
These are very encouraging goals. But translating them into policies that make a difference is another thing altogether — particularly when it comes to the food system, where Big Ag and pesticide corporations hold tremendous power and influence. Which is exactly why reducing the influence of corporate lobbyists tops our list of priorities for the new leaders at EPA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Translating goals into action
Here’s the list of recommendations PAN is sharing with both Administrator Regan and Secretary Vilsack:
- Reduce the influence of corporate lobbyists such as the pesticide industry on agency policymaking. The negative impacts on families, workers, and the environment of the policies resulting from corporate influence is well documented.
- Ensure farmers receive technical and financial support to reduce their reliance on dangerous pesticides by building healthy soil and biologically diverse farm ecosystems.
- Listen to and invest in community-scale farmers and farmers of color, shifting public resources away from petrochemical-intensive, industrial agriculture.
We also urged both leaders to ensure that independent (not corporate) science is the basis for decisionmaking, agency scientists are protected from political pressure, and (at EPA) loopholes that allow pesticides on the market without health and safety reviews (e.g., “emergency” and “conditional” use registrations) are firmly closed.
We know these are not small changes. But this kind of paradigm shift is needed to set in motion systemic changes in food and farming, which is in turn what’s necessary to address both the climate crisis and racial injustice.
When it comes to priorities for the new Congress, we’re looking forward to the reintroduction of the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), the groundbreaking bill that was led by Rep. Neguse (D-CO) and Senator Udall (D-NM) in the last session.
PACTPA would not only ban the most dangerous pesticides (including organophosphates, pollinator-harming neonicotinoids and paraquat herbicides); it would also close the loopholes described above, and:
- Protect farmworkers from harm by requiring injury reports with EPA review, improved pesticide labeling, and require labels in Spanish and any other language with 500 or more applicators using that language;
- Create a petition process allowing individuals to request review of pesticides that would otherwise be approved for use indefinitely;
- Protect local communities from preemption of local pesticide rules by state law; and
- Require suspension and review of pesticides deemed unsafe by Canada or the European Union.
Overhaul of our antiquated system of pesticide regulation is long, long overdue — as is a healthy food and farming system that supports local economies, provides solutions to our climate crisis, and addresses systemic racial injustice. Now’s the time.