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The Canadian Peregrine Foundation - Endangered Species Bulletin

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation

Pesticide Ban Follows Millions of Bird Deaths
August 3rd, 2006. 3:00 PM
Defenders of Wildlife


Washington, D.C. -- Today, American Bird Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife hailed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision to cancel the registration of most uses of the highly toxic pesticide carbofuran after a prolonged review. The pesticide, which is sold under the name "Furadan" by FMC Corporation, is one of the most toxic pesticides to birds left on the market. It is responsible for the deaths of millions of wild birds since its introduction in 1967, including Bald and Golden Eagles, Red--tailed Hawks, and migratory songbirds, as well as other wildlife.

"American Bird Conservancy applauds EPA for removing one of the deadliest bird killing pesticides ---- carbofuran -- from the market," said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy. "Removal of this pesticide will save tens of thousands of birds, including Bald Eagles, hawks, and migratory songbirds. Carbofuran's toxicity to wildlife made it one of America's most harmful licensed products, and we are delighted that EPA has done the right thing. This is a victory for science and the environment."

American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Defenders of Wildlife, and other conservation and worker protection organizations and the Bird Conservation Alliance had campaigned hard for many years to have carbofuran removed from the market. They heralded EPA's decision as a clear victory for the environment, and one that was long overdue.

"Millions of bird deaths have been averted today," said Rodger Schlickeisen, President, Defenders of Wildlife. "The toll these dangerous chemicals have taken on wildlife cannot be overstated, to say nothing of the threat they pose to human health. The EPA made the right call today, letting science chart the best course forward for the health of our nation's citizens and natural heritage."

"Carbofuran has been the greatest chemical threat to wild birds since the pesticides DDT and dieldrin were banned in the early 1970s. In its 2005 ecological risk assessment for carbofuran, EPA stated that there were no legal uses of carbofuran that did not kill wild birds. If a flock of mallards were to feed in a carbofuran treated alfalfa field, EPA predicted that 92% of the birds in the flock would quickly die," said Dr. Michael Fry, Director of ABC's Pesticides and Birds Campaign.

"According to EPA's own analysis, carbofuran was a threat to human health through contaminated food, drinking water, and occupational exposure. In light of the health risks to people, including high risks to children and to workers, and given the availability of less toxic alternatives, EPA did the right thing," said Dr. Jennifer Sass, Senior Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, who also campaigned for the cancellation of carbofuran.

Carbofuran first came under fire in the 1980s after an EPA Special Review estimated that over a million birds were killed each year by the granular formulation. According to scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service there are "no known conditions under which carbofuran can be used without killing migratory birds. Many of these die--off incidents followed applications of carbofuran that were made with extraordinary care." The granular formation was cancelled in 1994, but the liquid or "flowable" form remained on the market.

Carbofuran is one of the most heavily used insecticides in the world, but its extreme toxicity to farm workers and wildlife has made it very dangerous to use. EPA's cancellation will likely have a domino effect internationally, as other countries frequently follow EPA's lead.

In 1974 Congress passed the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), to require stricter controls on pesticides, and to encourage the development of less toxic alternatives to older chemicals. More than 1,000 alternative pesticides have since been registered, but a few "dinosaur chemicals" such as carbofuran have remained on the market, because they were grandfathered into the regulations when FIFRA was passed.

Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996, which set higher standards for pesticide registration and residues in food, and gave EPA a deadline of ten years to re--evaluate the most dangerous pesticides. Today's announcement by EPA to cancel the registration of carbofuran comes on the precise day of the ten year deadline. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of carbofuran's extreme toxicity and the availability of better alternatives, the manufacturer fought all efforts on the part of the EPA and conservationists to have the chemical banned.

The cancellation is immediately effective for the main uses of carbofuran: alfalfa, corn, cotton, potatoes, and rice. Its use will be phased out over four years for other minor uses including artichokes, chili peppers in the southwest, cucumbers, spinach for seed, sunflowers, and pine seedlings. The cancellation also applies to use on most major imported agricultural products. This means that countries wishing to export agricultural produce to the United States will not be able to use carbofuran on those crops.

Groups supporting the cancellation include: American Bird Conservancy, Alaska Bird Observatory, Archbold Biological Station, Beyond Pesticides, Bird Conservation Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Habitats League, Friends of Dyke Marsh, Hampshire Bird Club, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, Riveredge Bird Club, Seattle Audubon Society, Taku Conservation Society, Tennessee Ornithological Society, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, The Institute for Bird Populations, Virginia Society of Ornithology, Washington Toxics Coalition, Wildlife Center of Virginia, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, World Wildlife Fund, Xerces Society, Maryland Ornithological Society.

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Defenders of Wildlife is a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native wild animals and plants in their natural communities.

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American Bird Conservancy (ABC, www.abcbirds.org) -- is the only 501(c)(3) organization that works solely to conserve native wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts to safeguard the rarest bird species, restore habitats, and reduce threats, while building capacity in the conservation movement. ABC is the voice for birds, ensuring that they are adequately protected; that sufficient funding is available for bird conservation; and that land is protected and properly managed to maintain viable habitat. ABC is a membership organization that is consistently awarded a top, four--star rating by the independent group Charity Navigator.

ABC's Pesticides and Birds Campaign aims to reduce the exposure of wild birds to hazardous pesticides. Strategies include developing and supporting scientific research; improving regulatory and monitoring frameworks; engaging the public and other non--profit organizations in the issue; serving as an information and advocacy hub; and, when necessary, working to cancel registrations of the most dangerous pesticides -- such as carbofuran. For more information see www.abcbirds.org/pesticides.


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