Conservancy Petitions EPA to Ban Food with Pesticide Residues
The American Bird Conservancy has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban the import of crops containing any residues of 13 pesticides that are banned or restricted for use in the United States. These pesticides are highly toxic to birds but are commonly used on crops throughout Latin America where many species of U.S. migratory birds spend the winter months.
In addition to the environmental risks to birds, several of these chemicals also pose a risk to agricultural workers.
"Allowing residues of these hazardous pesticides on imported food gives tacit U.S. approval to foreign countries to use chemicals that are known to be deadly to U.S. migratory birds," said Michael Fry, Ph.D., the Conservancy's director of Conservation Advocacy. "EPA has an obligation under Executive Order 13186, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Endangered Species Act to ensure that migratory birds are not harmed."
Many Latin American countries that currently use these pesticides export coffee, bananas, citrus crops, and other fruits and vegetables to the United States. Agricultural areas – in particular shade coffee farms – provide valuable habitat for migratory birds, and so pesticide use in these areas can pose a significant threat to bird populations.
"The EPA must protect U.S. migratory birds on their wintering grounds by preventing these pesticides from being imported on food products," says Fry. "Doing so will encourage the use of safer pesticides and organic farming practices by foreign growers, at least for those crops that are imported into the U.S."
American Bird Conservancy is seeking to revoke the import tolerances for cadusafos, cyproconazole, diazinon, dithianon, diquat, dimethoate, fenamiphos, mevinphos, methomyl, naled, phorate, terbufos, and dichlorvos.
The Avian Incident Monitoring System (AIMS), a database of bird-pesticide interactions maintained for the public by American Bird Conservancy, has records of bird deaths resulting from nearly all of the 13 petitioned pesticides before they were canceled in the United States. For example, 388 birds, including cedar waxwings, mourning doves, and bluebirds were killed by fenamiphos; phorate killed nearly 3,000 birds in 32 separate incidents, among them black necked stilts, eastern bluebirds, and many waterfowl.
The full petition is available at http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/090730_petition.html.