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Last Gasp For Bird-Killing ChemicalSalem-News.com
Carbofuran, which is produced by FMC Corp, is an insecticide used to kill pests on corn, soy beans, cotton, potatoes, and other crops.
(WASHINGTON D.C.) - Opening arguments were heard in an appeal starting today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that will decide the fate of carbofuran, one of the most toxic pesticides to birds. American Bird Conservancy (ABC) – the nation’s leading bird conservation organization – hopes the judge’s gavel will sound the death knell for this chemical in the United States, which is thought to have caused the deaths of tens of millions of birds since its use began in 1965.
Carbofuran, which is produced by FMC Corp, is an insecticide used to kill pests on corn, soy beans, cotton, potatoes, and other crops. It has already been much restricted, with the most dangerous, granular formulation that was estimated by the EPA to have killed up to three million birds per year (though other estimates suggest up to 90 million birds were killed), banned in 1994 and restricted uses only to the liquid formulation, which is also highly toxic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began the process of cancelling all uses in 2006. In an unprecedented move, FMC fought the cancellation, necessitating a protracted Agency hearing process and court battle leading to today’s final appeal.
Through efforts by ABC and other organizations, and support from the Wallace Genetic Foundation, Turner Foundation, and New York Community Trust, cancellations and restrictions on pesticide use, including carbofuran, have caused bird deaths from pesticide poisonings to drop dramatically from an estimated 67 million birds per year in 1992 to perhaps fewer than 15 million per year today.
“The EPA receives significant pressure from the agriculture and pesticide industries to keep agricultural chemicals on the market even if they are hazardous to wildlife. Absent the actions of American Bird Conservancy and our partners to counteract that pressure and act as the voice for birds, we certainly would have seen hundreds of millions more birds dying at the hands of deadly chemicals that never should have been approved for use around birds,” said ABC President George Fenwick.
In 2002, ABC and over 20 partner groups formed the National Pesticide Reform Coalition (NPRC), and to date, they have successfully pushed for the cancellation or restriction of more than 20 pesticides in the United States. In addition, ABC is presently challenging the registration of eight organophosphate pesticides currently under review by the EPA. This class of chemicals was originally developed as nerve gases during World War II and are toxic to all living organisms, particularly birds.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, about five billion pounds of pesticide are used annually worldwide, with about 20 percent of that total – one billion pounds – used in the United States alone. Currently about 19,000 pesticide products are registered in this country.
ABC also facilitated the creation of the Avian Incident Monitoring System (AIMS) database to identify dangerous pesticides, and the Birds in Agricultural Areas (BIAA) database to document avian uses of agricultural areas susceptible to pesticide applications. AIMS has so far documented over 2,500 incidents of pesticide poisonings of birds, providing publically available data that have supported efforts to restrict or cancel many of the most hazardous pesticides. Pesticides with the highest number of bird poisoning incidents are: carbofuran, diazinon, and chlordane, which was banned in the US in 1988.
Another area of concern to ABC and NPRC is an EPA action in 1998 that dramatically relaxed the reporting requirements for bird kill incidents. Prior to the change, ALL wildlife poisoning incidents were required to be reported. Following the change, essentially only “major” incidents need to be reported. A major incident involves 200 or more individuals of a flocking species, or 50 or more individuals of a songbird species, or five or more individuals of a predatory species. This means far fewer data were reported to the EPA or were available for the AIMS database. From 1991 to 2001, there were more than 100 bird pesticide poisoning incidents reported each year. Since the EPA change, there has been a dramatic drop in reported incidents.
“The bird kill numbers are down, but we are concerned that reduced reporting may be disguising the real picture,” said Fenwick. “While we are proud of our achievements so far, the current number of bird deaths due to pesticides is still unacceptable, and we will continue to strive to eliminate all bird-killing pesticides from the environment.”
ABC’s Pesticides and Birds Program plans to focus its efforts in 2010 on identifying pesticides cancelled in the United States that are still used overseas, and then petitioning for commodities to be banned from entering this country if they have any residue of those pesticides on them.
“Our U.S. farmers must abide by strict environmental rules regarding the use of many chemicals, but their competitors overseas are still able to use them and export their food to U.S. consumers. We believe that cancelling import tolerances on these pesticide residues will not only protect our migrant songbirds wintering in Latin America, but will also help level the playing field for our farmers,” Fenwick said.
Source: American Bird Conservancy
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