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The California red-legged frog, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. (Photo:  J. Maughn/flickr/cc)

'Historic Settlement' Cheered as Harbinger of End to Toxic Pesticides' Harm

Impacts of atrazine and glyphosate, other pesticides on endangered species to be analyzed by USFWS

Andrea Germanos

A conservation organization is celebrating what it calls a "historical settlement" that stands to put permanent restrictions on widely used pesticides and prevent federal agencies from doing industry bidding.

The settlement (pdf) reached Friday between the Center for Biological Diversity, the Interior Department, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) centers around the impacts of atrazine, simazine, propazine, and glyphosate on endangered species.

USFWS will now have to finish the consultation process with EPA on these chemicals' impacts on endangered species by December 2022.

The problem, as Center sees it, is that EPA had failed to do the required consultation before listing pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, and with those four chemicals accounting for 40 percent of annual pesticide use in the U.S., the conservation group says there are significant risks posed to endangered species as well as human health.

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) warned last year that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, "probably causes cancer," while atrazine has been linked to birth defects.

"The analysis required under the Endangered Species Act is our best bet for forcing the EPA to stop acting as a rubber stamp for industry, and to finally make environmental protection the highest priority in decisions about these dangerous pesticides," Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center, said in a press statement.

Hartl is hopeful that proper assessments will bring "long-overdue protections for our country's most endangered species."

"Once the Fish and Wildlife Service completes its analysis, and the public finally learns just how toxic and deadly these pesticides are to endangered species, we hope that the government will ultimately take most of these products off the shelf," he stated.

The organization also welcomed news this week that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would for the first time begin testing for residues of glyphosate in certain foods.

"It’s shocking that it’s taken so long, but we’re glad it’s finally going to happen," said Dr. Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement on Wednesday about the FDA testing.

"More and more scientists are raising concerns about the effects of glyphosate on human health and the environment," Donley continued. "With about 1.7 billion pounds of this pesticide used each year worldwide, the FDA's data is badly needed to facilitate long-overdue conversations about how much of this chemical we should tolerate in our food."

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