For Immediate Release, May 24, 2022

Contact:

Lori Ann Burd, (971) 717-6405, laburd@biologicaldiversity.org

Legal Petition Urges EPA to Require Commonsense Safeguards on Pesticide Labels to Protect Farmworkers, Endangered Species

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition for rulemaking to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs today to require new safeguards on pesticide labels. The new measures would be aimed at protecting people and endangered species. Pesticide labels and instructions must be followed properly for the use of a pesticide to be considered lawful.

The petition seeks three key changes to pesticide labels. First, it asks the EPA to require all pesticide labels to be provided in both Spanish and English, since many Spanish-speaking farmworkers do not read English. The petition notes that farmworkers are among the most linguistically diverse groups and pushes for additional languages to be added to labels once the long-overdue Spanish language labels are completed.

Second, the petition seeks universal warning labels for endangered species for all pesticides used outdoors — a requirement first proposed under the George W. Bush administration in 2005 but never finalized.

Third, the petition asks the EPA to restrict the use of all pesticides in endangered species critical habitat in Hawai‘i, which would provide much-needed protection for nearly 500 endangered species.

“For decades the EPA has known that pesticide labels fail to protect farmworkers and endangered species, but it has failed to address these problems,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center. “It’s long past time for the EPA to follow through with its promises to prioritize our most vulnerable people and wildlife and put commonsense measures in place.”

The petition notes that virtually no pesticide labels have adequate warning instructions in Spanish. Often, the only Spanish message on a label reads: “Si Usted no entiende la etiqueta, busque a alguien para que se la explique a Usted en detalle.” This means “If you do not understand the label, find someone to explain it to you in detail” — often an absurdly ineffective instruction given that farmworkers simply cannot consult on translations while actively working in the field.

The petition notes that farmworkers often speak other languages besides Spanish. For example, more than 150,000 farmworkers in California speak only Indigenous languages from Latin America, including Mixteco, Triqui and Zapotec. The petition seeks additional safeguards and requirements that labels in California provide instructions in those languages.

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.