Pesticide Aldicarb Too Toxic, EPA Yanks Registration

WASHINGTON, DC, August 18, 2010 (ENS) – The pesticide aldicarb will no longer be used in the United States after August 2018 under an agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the manufacturer, Bayer CropScience, based in Germany.

Aldicarb has been registered for use as a systemic insecticide and nematicide on agricultural crops, and is formulated and marketed as a granular pesticide, sold under the brand name Temik.

On Monday, the EPA notified the company that its registration of aldicarb on potatoes and citrus is being canceled. A phase-out of the pesticide for all uses must be completed by August 2018.

The agreement comes 25 years after more than 2,000 people who had eaten California watermelons fell ill with aldicarb poisoning. The July 4, 1985 incident still stands as the largest pesticide poisoning event in North American history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new risk assessment conducted by EPA based on recently submitted toxicity data indicates that aldicarb, an N-methyl carbamate insecticide, no longer meets the agency’s food safety standards and may pose unacceptable dietary risks, especially to infants and young children.

The risk assessment shows that babies and children under five can receive levels of aldicarb through water and food that are higher than levels the agency considers safe.

Scientists say children can ingest enough aldicarb through water and food to make them sick. (Photo courtesy U. California Agriculture)

“Based upon current toxicological studies, aldicarb at levels higher than those typically found in food has the potential to cause various effects such as sweating, nausea, dizziness and blurred vision, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea,” the EPA said.

To address the most significant risks, Bayer has agreed first to end aldicarb use on citrus and potatoes and will adopt risk mitigation measures for other uses to protect groundwater resources. New measures to protect shallow drinking water wells in vulnerable areas of the southeastern U.S. coastal plain and lower application rates will be immediately added to product labels for use on cotton, soybeans, and peanuts.

“Although the company does not fully agree with this new risk assessment approach, Bayer CropScience respects the oversight authority of the EPA and is cooperating with them,” the company said in a statement Monday. “This new assessment does not mean that aldicarb poses a food safety concern.”

“For nearly 40 years, Temik has provided farmers with unsurpassed control of destructive pests, without compromising human health or environmental safety,” said Bill Buckner, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience. “We recognize the significant impact this decision will have on growers and the food industry, and will do everything possible to address their concerns during this transition.”

Environmental groups have other concerns.

“After thousands of poisonings, it is mind-boggling that aldicarb is still in use,” Steve Scholl-Buckwald, managing director of the environmental group Pesticide Action Network North America told reporters. “It never should have been registered in the first place back in 1970 and by the mid-1980s there was sufficient data to suggest it should have been taken off the market.”

Jennifer Sass of the Natural Resources Defense Council complains that in deciding how to deal with carbamate pesticides, including aldicarb, “EPA negotiated in all cases with the registrants, and only the registrants. No public health or environmental groups were consulted or involved.”

“Maybe that’s why all the pesticides were granted phase-outs of several years or longer,” said Sass. “That means that even though EPA decided that Aldicarb is unsafe today, it will continue to be manufactured until 2014, and sold until 2018. That’s a lot of years of unsafe continued use of a hazardous pesticide!”

Bayer says farmers may continue to use existing stocks of aldicarb on citrus and potatoes by the end of 2011. Uses on all other crops will be maintained with some additional label changes, until the product phase-out is completed.

Aldicarb is classified as an extremely hazardous pesticide by the World Health Organization and is very toxic to aquatic organisms. The pesticide has been banned more than 60 countries including the European Union member states, although it is still applied in other countries.

Buckner said Bayer CropScience plans to discontinue marketing aldicarb in the United States and other markets worldwide by December 31, 2014.

All remaining aldicarb uses will end no later than August 2018.

During the phase-out, the pesticide will continue to be registered for use on cotton, dry beans, peanuts, soybeans, sugar beets, and sweet potatoes.

The company will work with farmers and other stakeholders in the distribution chain during this phase-out process.

“Bayer CropScience is committed to bringing new innovation solutions from seed to harvest to growers to ensure we continue to have a safe, abundant and affordable food supply,” said Buckner. “We recognize the loss of this tool to growers and will seek innovative solutions to fill this void.”

Aldicarb products are not intended for sale to homeowners or for use in residential settings. A restricted use pesticide, aldicarb may be applied only by trained, certified pesticide applicators.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.