US officials reverse their position on pesticides' harm to wildlife

After receiving promises from chemical companies that they would change the product labels for malathion, U.S. wildlife officials have reversed their earlier findings that this pesticide is highly toxic and can cause extinction in dozens of species.

US officials reverse their position on pesticides' harm to wildlife

In response to concerns that malathion, a pesticide that is used on insects such as mosquitoes and grasshoppers, may also cause the death of rare plants and animals, federal rules regarding malathion have been reviewed. The U.S. has released a draft finding. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a draft finding last April that malathion could cause extinction in 78 species.

According to The Associated Press, documents that were reviewed by The Associated Press, wildlife officials changed their position on the 78 species following talks between malathion producers, officials from the Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Officials from the wildlife service now believe malathion may cause some harm to hundreds of species but it is unlikely that they will threaten their extinction. As long as the labels that regulate its use are updated, however, officials say that it could cause little to no harm. This conclusion is dependent on gardeners, farmers, and other consumers following the directions on how and where to apply the pesticide.

Environmentalists who wanted to restrict malathion used said that the proposed label changes would not do much to protect species that, in some cases, have been reduced to very few. They objected to an 18 month timeline for the EPA's implementation of the guidelines because they assume malathion users will not follow them.

Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity said that "this is a huge punt." "This biological opinion will not see any changes on the ground for endangered species for at least 18 month, but most likely never."

Manufacturers agreed to use labels with detailed guidelines about when and where malathion should not be used in order to prevent wildlife deaths. The labels would state that you should not spray malathion on mosquitoes in the middle of the afternoon, when bees, and other insects, are most active, and therefore more likely to be accidentally killed.

Gary Frazer, assistant director for ecology at the wildlife service, stated that the measures would "significantly decrease many of the adverse effects of malathion usage."

According to the wildlife service, FMC Corp. was the main representative of the manufacturers. It is a Philadelphia-based agricultural chemicals company. Lars Weborg, spokesperson for FMC Corp., stated that the labels and other updates to malathion guidelines were developed according to a standard process common to all industries.

He stated that the company could not speculate on whether less malathion would result.

Last year, endangered species included birds like the Mississippi sandhill crane, as well as various fish, insects and snails.

Raul Grijalva, Chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, criticized Biden's inability to take stronger steps to protect endangered species against pesticides. Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva stated that "theoretical limitations" regarding the use of malathion wouldn't help.

Grijalva stated, "We must cease using malathion immediately."

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, almost a million pounds per year of malathion is used in crops across California, Florida and Washington. According to data from a 2018 survey, close to 2 million pounds are used each year in home gardens for mosquito control and other purposes. According to data, the amount of farmland used has dropped by around two-thirds from its peak in 1998.

Malathion can be toxic to fish, insects and crustaceans. International health officials believe that the chemical may be carcinogenic to humans.

According to the EPA, it will post details online that pesticide users must follow. These are guidelines in many cases. According to government documents, this includes spraying mosquito control "where possible" in order to protect species such as the Houston toad or the Miami Tiger beetle.

Officials said that the fish and wildlife service analysis is the first nationwide review for a EPA-regulated pesticide up for reapproval. In a statement, the EPA stated that the measures would help protect endangered species as well as reduce pesticide exposure in other plants and animals.

A legal agreement was reached with the Center for Biological Diversity for the malathion review's effects on wildlife. Two decades ago, the environmental group sued the EPA for not consulting with other federal agencies regarding the pesticide risks to wildlife and plants. It filed additional lawsuits that culminated in the 2013 settlement with Fish and Wildlife Service.

The AP reported that Dow Chemical had lobbied for the Trump administration's to ignore government studies regarding a pesticide family that included malathion. After initial findings by the EPA showing that pesticides had adverse effects on over 1,000 endangered and threatened species, the lobbying began.

Later that year, the Trump administration requested a two year delay in their review of malathion (and other pesticides).

The National Marine Fisheries Service is currently conducting a separate review of malathion’s effects. In a draft analysis, the agency stated that malathion could threaten 37 species. The draft didn't take into account any label changes made by manufacturers. Officials from the fisheries service said that they would include these labels in their final opinion.

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