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Hawai'i CFS

EPA Failed to Protect Against Toxic Enlist Herbicides, Lawsuit Alleges

EPA ignored the adverse effects of Enlist on rural communities and the environment in re-approval.

June 07, 2023
Center for Food Safety

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, Center for Food Safety (CFS), Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), and Alianza Nacional De Campesinas, Inc. (Alianza) sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its unlawful re-approval of Enlist One and Enlist Duo, highly toxic herbicides sprayed "over the top" of corn, soybeans, and cotton genetically engineered (GE) to resist the herbicides.

"EPA unlawfully ignored the environmental and public health risks of Enlist herbicides," said Kristina Sinclair, CFS attorney and counsel for the plaintiffs. "And by failing to address Enlist's adverse effects, EPA is jeopardizing hundreds of endangered species across the country."

Enlist One and Enlist Duo contain the infamous 2,4-D, one of the active ingredients in the chemical weapon Agent Orange. According to the lawsuit, EPA knew that the renewed use of Enlist herbicides would harm rural communities and wildlife by substantially increasing concentrations of 2,4-D and glyphosate in the environment, destroying important habitats for threatened and endangered species, polluting local waterways, and damaging native plants and crops. The plaintiffs allege that EPA's registration decisions violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by failing to properly consider the negative environmental and health effects before approving Enlist herbicides for another seven years. Plaintiffs also allege that EPA violated the Endangered Species Act, endangering threatened and endangered species in rural areas across the United States.

"Farmworkers and rural communities are experiencing significant health effects from Enlist herbicides. EPA's registration decision shows an utter disregard for public health. We cannot continue to permit the use of these dangerous herbicides without necessary evaluations or methods to protect affected communities." - Mily Trevino-Sauceda, Executive Director, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc., a plaintiff in the case.

Despite repeatedly acknowledging that Enlist can harm literally hundreds of threatened and endangered species and their habitats, the lawsuit alleges EPA ignored these risks when it decided to renew the registrations of Enlist One and Enlist Duo in January 2022. EPA re-registered these herbicides without fully considering the risks or consulting with the expert wildlife agencies, as required under the Endangered Species Act. EPA also failed to evaluate its own proposed mitigation measures to address these impacts.

"EPA's analysis does not reflect actual use of these products in real-world agriculture. Some crops, such as lettuce and onions, are highly susceptible to damage. Growers who wish to plant alternative and non-GE crops are unable to do so without risking significant loss. The court must reverse this approval to protect all farmers." - Rob Faux, Iowa farmer, Communications Manager for Pesticide Action Network, and plaintiff.


Today's complaint follows two prior CFS-led lawsuits regarding EPA's improper authorization of Enlist herbicides. Prior to the original approval of Enlist and GE crops resistant to it, 2,4-D had never been sprayed over the top of crops, dramatically increasing the amount and timing of exposures. CFS and PANNA initially challenged EPA's approval of Enlist Duo in 2014. In 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court held that EPA's previous registrations violated FIFRA by underestimating the risks to milkweed plants and monarch butterflies. 

In response to earlier CFS litigation, in 2015 EPA revoked the registration for Enlist Duo after recognizing that the chemical cocktail was potentially more toxic and harmful than initially believed.

Scientists with the National Cancer Institute found that the use of 2,4-D is associated with a heightened risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified 2,4-D as a possible carcinogen and glyphosate as a probable carcinogen to humans.

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