Commentary: Lawmakers want the EPA to ignore impacts of pesticides on endangered species

It would be hard to overstate the dangers of this Farm Bill rider

According to the latest push by House Republicans, pesticides — all of them — are so safe there's no longer any need to bother asking experts to determine their harm to our most endangered species before approving them.


It's not true, of course — not even vaguely. It's such an outrageously anti-science statement it's laughable.

But not surprisingly, that's what pesticide makers like Dow Chemical would have us believe.

And now that's what Republicans in Congress would have us believe.

This week some of the biggest agriculture and pesticide players in Washington, D.C. — including Croplife and Dow Chemical — succeeded in getting Republicans to include a rider in the 2018 Farm Bill that would exempt the Environmental Protection Agency's pesticide-registration program from the most important parts of the Endangered Species Act: The provisions requiring that a pesticide's harm to endangered species be assessed and addressed before it can be approved, and the provisions that prohibit a pesticide's killing of endangered species.

That's right: If the rider remains in place, consideration for impacts on endangered species would be written out of the process of registering pesticides.

Shortly after President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took power last year, they made it clear how little they cared about science, public health and wildlife when Pruitt reversed an EPA plan to ban Dow's chlorpyrifos from use on crops, despite troves of evidence showing that this chemical causes brain damage in children and is likely to harm imperiled species.

The troth of evidence against chlorpyrifos was so compelling that prior to Trump taking office, the EPA had found that the chemical harmed 97 percent of the nation's 1,800 endangered plants and animals.

The evidence of risk was overwhelming. Hence the EPA's plan to ban it.

But then Dow donated $1 million to Trump's inaugural fund, and the EPA simply walked away from years of research.

And now, Dow and friends are getting even more bang for their buck — this time with House Republicans who don't seem to care how many species they drive extinct.

It seems like Dow has really been cashing in on its D.C. spending spree over the past six years, during which the company has donated $11 million to congressional campaigns and political action committees and spent an additional $75 million lobbying Congress.

It would be hard to overstate the dangers of this Farm Bill rider. If we don't stop it, it could not only directly fuel the extinction of many of our most endangered plants and animals — it could eliminate one of the most important shields we have to protect all species, including humans, against highly toxic pesticides poisoning the waterways and landscapes we all depend on.

Lori Ann Burd is director of the Center for Biological Diversity's environmental health program and sits on the EPA's Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee

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