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Hawai'i CFS

Groups Sue EPA Over Approval of Toxic Herbicide Citing Risks to Endangered Species, Drift Harms

July 19, 2021
Center for Food Safety

SAN FRANCISCO—On Friday, Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approval of trifludimoxazin, a potent herbicide used to control weeds in corn, soy, and many other crops, as well as weeds in tree plantations. Trifludimoxazin is the active ingredient in the herbicide Tirexor, manufactured by BASF.

"It's disappointing that even with the change in administration, EPA is continuing to approve new pesticides that harm the environment, farmers, endangered species, and human health—without a thorough consideration of these harms," said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. "EPA admits that spray drift and runoff of trifludimoxazin are likely to cause damage to non-target crops, wild plants, and fish, yet it failed to implement measures that could help to reduce those risks."

The groups' lawsuit alleges EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by discounting impacts of spray drift and runoff to terrestrial and aquatic plants, fish, and threatened and endangered species. The agency admitted in its response to public comments that it was ignoring the clear requirements of the law, leaving endangered species without any protections for potentially a decade or more.  

"The EPA cannot pick and choose when it will protect endangered species from toxic pesticides, condemning some species to extinction because the agency feels inconvenienced," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The EPA must stop recklessly approving pesticides that are polluting our rivers and streams and slowly wiping out one of the world's most diverse collections of freshwater species just to placate the pesticide industry." 

Trifludimoxazin is roughly ten times more potent on soybeans than dicamba, the herbicide whose spray and vapor drift and runoff has caused unprecedented damage across many millions of acres of soybeans the past several years. Dicamba's previous approval was vacated by the Ninth Circuit just last year; CFS and allies' lawsuit challenging dicamba's most recent registration is currently under review in the Ninth Circuit.

"EPA's approval of trifludimoxazin is incredibly irresponsible, since its own analysis shows this herbicide will cause considerable drift damage to plants over 1,000 feet from field's edge, with absolutely no buffer zones or other effective measures to protect these plants or the organisms that depend on them," said Bill Freese, science director at the Center for Food Safety. 

The EPA's registration decision and label contain very little in the way of mandatory mitigation measures, increasing the likelihood of harm when the herbicide is applied in real-world conditions. The registration of trifludimoxazin will allow it to be used on many major crops as well as on large amounts of sensitive non-agricultural areas. This broad registration means it may be used on millions of acres and pose a significant risk to protected and non-protected plants and the wildlife that depend on them. It will also result in significant risks to fish.

Some endangered species at risk from trifludimoxazin include the Monarch butterfly, Chinook salmon, rusty-patched bumblebee, and other fish, insects and wild plants. There are also concerns about potential impacts to aquatic plants and organisms, as there is currently no mitigation to address runoff.

Represented by Center for Food Safety, the plaintiffs in the case include the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety.

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