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EPA Scales Back Requirements for Pesticide Testing on Fish (1)

July 15, 2020, 6:39 PMUpdated: July 15, 2020, 8:17 PM

The EPA announced Wednesday it will allow pesticide producers to forego certain tests on live fish, which can indicate whether the chemicals accumulate in their bodies and enter the food chain.

A wide range of public health and animal rights advocates support the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to reduce pesticide testing on animals. But an environmental group is concerned the agency is overlooking a systemic failure to control the chemicals in the environment.

The EPA’s goal is to reduce animal testing by 30% over the next five years to “make science-based decisions about pesticide registrations without having to harm animals by testing,” agency administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a Wednesday news release.

The EPA previously removed a requirement for companies to submit data obtained by adding pesticides to lab birds’ diets, as long as adequate data could be obtained another way.

A draft guidance document on changes in bird testing received support from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the Humane Society of the U.S., People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and CropLife America. But Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “We take issue with Wheeler’s statements that this will help them make better decisions about pesticide regulation.”

Fish Testing Support

All of the organizations except CropLife said Wednesday they supported the change for fish testing.

In a statement, CropLife managing director of science policy Manojit Basu said the organization supported the EPA’s “strategic vision” for developing techniques and approaches to replace or supplement live animal testing.

CropLife America, which represents the pesticide industry, supported the agency’s bird testing proposal because it would reduce the time needed for processing pesticide registration applications and the number of animals needed for testing. The organization submitted comments to the agency in November.

The agency’s new guidance reduces the number of scenarios lab tests must use to gauge the effect of pesticides on fish.

Rather than exposing three groups of fish to two different concentrations of pesticides and a control, the EPA is now requiring one concentration and a control, reducing the number of fish needed by one-third, or about 240 animals per year.

Concern Over Changes

Jennifer Sass, senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, expressed concerns about the changes the EPA has made in pesticide testing requirements.

“They’ve stripped out science and the public and transparency and reliability in this process,” she said.

The EPA requires pesticide producers to register their products and submit test data so the agency can evaluate a pesticide’s health and environmental risk assessments. The EPA also evaluates and signs off on pesticide labels to ensure the directions and precautions address potential risks.

Though the center supports the use of fewer animals in testing, the agency’s registration process has allowed the use of pesticides that pose risks to human health and the environment, Hartl said.

“The EPA pesticide office rarely sees a pesticide that they don’t rubber-stamp its approval of,” he said.

The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research, based in the U.K., suggested to the EPA in 2017 that it reduce the number of animals used in biological chemical concentration testing. The organization said making the change would harmonize U.S. requirements with international ones and reduce unnecessary animal testing.

(Adds reaction from organizations in fifth paragraph and comment from Jennifer Sass in 10th and 11th paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sylvia Carignan in Washington at scarignan@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com

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