At a joint hearing this week of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committees, the pesticide industry tried to make a case for weakening regulations that protect both farmers and wildlife from harmful poisons. (Click here to watch a webcast of all 3.5 hours of the hearing and to read written testimony from public officials and expert witnesses.) They claim that basic precautions like implementing no-spray buffers right next to rivers and streams are overly burdensome.
Of course, they failed to mention that the misuse of pesticides continues to threaten salmon populations up and down the West Coast. Farm workers are also at serious risk through repeated exposure to these chemicals. But when have human health and or endangered species ever stood in the way of corporate profits?
The Environmental Protection Agency has responsibility for deciding which pesticides are safe to use, but their analyses frequently fail to consider potential impacts on endangered species. However, under a provision of the Endangered Species Act, EPA is required to consult with either the U.S. Fish & Wildlife or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to make sure that new pesticide registrations will not have undue impacts on endangered species.
The pesticide industry, led by CropLife America, believes that the current consultation process with expert biologists sets too high a burden and is trying to dismantle the process.
The focus of the debate has been a series of biological opinions (or in bureaucratic jargon, “bi-ops”) issued beginning in 2008 by NMFS, stating the EPA had not provided sufficient protections for endangered salmon. EPA has yet to implement any of the recommendations outlined in those bi-ops, and the lax protections have now become the subject of several lawsuits.
Now the pesticide industry and their congressional puppets are trying to prevent the “bi-ops” from becoming law.
Defenders is working hard to make sure that essential protections for both humans and imperiled wildlife are not tossed aside. Strong environmental champions like sophomore Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and veteran Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), are taking a stand against the pesticide and agribusiness industries to make sure we have healthy salmon populations, safe working environments and clean water for generations to come.