EPA revokes approval of Enlist Duo herbicide to study 'synergistic effects'

By Stephen Davies

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2015 -- EPA plans to cancel its registration of Enlist Duo, a Dow herbicide containing 2,4-D and glyphosate, after becoming aware of new data on “potential synergistic effects” of the two active ingredients on threatened and endangered species, the agency said in a court filing.

The herbicide is used on corn and soybeans genetically engineered to be resistant to 2,4-D and glyphosate, killing surrounding weeds while allowing the crop to grow unhindered.

In a motion filed yesterday in connection with a legal challenge to the registration brought by environmental and food safety groups, EPA said it was requesting “voluntary remand and vacatur” of the registration. Center for Food Safety Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell said the agency does not need the court's approval to revoke its approval of Enlist Duo.

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In a statement, Dow AgroSciences said it “is confident in the extensive data supporting Enlist Duo herbicide” and is “working with EPA to quickly provide further assurances that our product's conditions of registered use will continue to protect the environment, including threatened and endangered plant species.”

The statement continued: “Recognizing the pressing needs of U.S. farmers for access to Enlist Duo to counter the rapidly increasing spread of resistant weeds - and in light of the comprehensive nature of the regulatory assessments already conducted to support the Enlist Duo registration - we expect that these new evaluations will result in a prompt resolution of all outstanding issues.”

The environmental groups saw things differently. “With this action, EPA confirms the toxic nature of this lethal cocktail of chemicals, and has stepped back from the brink,” Earthjustice Managing Attorney Paul Achitoff said in a news release. He asserted that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen and is wiping out the monarch butterfly. He said 2,4-D also causes serious human health effects, and the combination also threatens endangered wildlife. “This must not, and will not, be how we grow our food,” he said.

Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety (CFS) brought the challenge to EPA's approval of Enlist Duo in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on behalf of CFS, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition and Pesticide Action Network North America.

In its court filing, EPA said it had recently “learned that it did not have all relevant information at the time it made its registration decision” for Enlist Duo in October 2014.

“Specifically, Dow did not submit to EPA during the registration process the extensive information relating to potential synergism it cited (in applications) to the Patent Office; EPA only learned of the existence of that information after the registrations were issued and only recently obtained the information.”

Over the past two weeks, the agency's scientists have looked at that data “and believe, based on that review, that the data indicate that the 30-foot buffer on the approved label may not be adequate to protect non-target plant species located outside the treated fields,” EPA said in the filing.

“The agency can no longer represent to the court that its conclusions were correct regarding whether issuance of the registration met the standard in FIFRA (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Insecticide Act) and whether the buffer zones included in the registration support the finding that the registration will have no effect upon threatened or endangered plant species,” EPA said. The agency said it needs more time to conduct a full assessment of the new data.

In the court filing, the government said Dow has indicated it plans to file a response to EPA's motion for “voluntary remand and vacatur.”

Earlier this month, EPA ordered a halt to distribution of Dow products that have the insecticide sulfoxaflor as their active ingredient. The agency was acting in response to a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that EPA violated federal law when it approved the pesticide's registration without additional studies regarding potential impact on honeybees.

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Dow AgroSciences at the time expressed confidence that the products would be back on the market. The following is from the company's statement.

As a result of the extensive data currently available on sulfoxaflor, Dow AgroSciences expects the pollinator protection concerns expressed in (the court) decision to be readily and thoroughly addressed by EPA through further review of scientific data, supporting pressing grower needs for protection against destructive crop pests with renewed U.S. registrations of sulfoxaflor-containing products.” 

 

(This story was updated at 3:55 p.m.) 

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