Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 8, 2023

Contact:

Nathan Donley, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6406, ndonley@biologicaldiversity.org
Niccolo Sarno, Center for International Environmental Law, (based in Central European Time) + 41 22 5068037, nsarno@ciel.org

EPA Petitioned to Halt Export of U.S.-Banned Pesticides to Developing Countries Unless Approved by Their Governments

Export of Toxic Pesticides Harms Indigenous Peoples, Vulnerable Populations

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for International Environmental Law filed a legal petition today urging the Environmental Protection Agency to forbid export of pesticides banned in the United States to any country without prior consent of that country’s relevant authorities.

The groups’ petition was prompted by the fact that pesticides that are manufactured in the United States, but banned from use domestically, are routinely exported to countries that often have limited resources or capacity to assess and regulate chemical risks.

This practice has directly fueled the influx of extremely hazardous pesticides to countries in the Global South, where they disproportionately harm Indigenous peoples and vulnerable and marginalized communities. Worldwide, it is estimated that 385 million people are poisoned by pesticides annually.

More than 80% of countries importing neurotoxic pesticides banned in the United States are considered “low-to-middle income” and eligible for financial-development and welfare assistance from the World Bank. More than three-quarters are estimated to have over 30% of their agricultural workforce poisoned by pesticides each year.

The ongoing manufacture of these banned pesticides in the United States also unfairly harms U.S. fenceline communities.

“The Biden EPA must end the horrifically immoral U.S. legacy of squeezing profits out of dangerous pesticides we refuse to use ourselves by shipping them off to developing countries,” said Nathan Donley, environmental health science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Pesticide companies are exploiting weak laws to dump their most toxic poisons on countries with extremely limited regulatory resources. This system is built on deception and shrouded in secrecy. It’s time to make it more transparent.”

Today’s petition seeks to implement the principle of “prior informed consent” in U.S. pesticide trade, which is a common doctrine in many U.S. statutes, multilateral agreements and other international treaties and agreements.

“In the half century since FIFRA’s notice requirements were last updated, the U.S. has dramatically expanded its pesticide exports while falling ever farther out of step with global standards governing those exports,” said CIEL president Carroll Muffett. “EPA has the opportunity, authority and the obligation to narrow that gap and provide importing countries with the critical information they need to better protect their own people and the U.S. public.”

Prior informed consent would empower countries with fewer resources to make informed decisions about if, or when, to allow highly hazardous pesticides within their borders.

Current U.S. practice only requires that the government of the importing country be informed after the import has already taken place and often with very little information about the associated hazards — including whether the United States has banned the pesticide due to known harms to people.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Center for International Environmental Law is a not-for-profit legal organization that uses the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society.

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