CropLife America (CLA) applauds the release of the report “Assessing Risks to Endangered and Threatened Species from Pesticides” by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Committee on Ecological Risk Assessment under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA). The report finds that federal regulatory agencies should use a common approach to evaluate risks to threatened and endangered species, and use a risk assessment that addresses problem formulation, exposure analysis, effect analysis and risk characterization.

The completion of endangered species risk assessments for pesticides compliant with ESA has been impeded by a lack of communication and coordination among the regulatory agencies involved. The committee report encourages the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to work more effectively with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as they conduct their environmental risk analysis of whether a pesticide is likely to adversely affect a listed species. This would serve to avoid the duplication of effort in having the Services conduct their own independent risk assessments. A more streamlined assessment process drawing on the expertise of the agencies incorporating the recommendation of the NAS would provide for a more scientifically sound outcome. The NAS committee emphasized a need for coordination to ensure a complete and representative assessment of risk, and so that each agency's technical needs are met.

“We applaud the growing legal and scientific consensus in favor of sound science and modern agricultural practices,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA. “Judges and scientists agree that the protection of endangered species depends on the latest scientific evidence and the NAS report calls for a common scientific approach to evaluating regulations by all stakeholders. Now we must work together to find common ground between modern agriculture and the protection of endangered species. Agriculture continues to evolve in order to support increased biodiversity through the preservation of beneficial species and our most valued resources. Furthermore, we see a new opportunity to also focus on the myriad benefits to wildlife from modern farming practices.”

Vroom added: “We believe today’s report reflects what President Obama himself told the National Academy of Sciences this week: ‘In all the sciences we have to make sure that we are supporting the idea that they aren't subject to politics; they are not skewed by an agenda...that we make sure we go where the evidence leads us.’ CLA stands ready to work with President Obama and his Administration to follow sound scientific evidence in an apolitical matter in order to improve crop protection products and their uses to ensure that all wildlife species and their habitats are safe.”

Today’s NAS report comes on the heels of last week's federal court dismissal of the ESA “Mega” lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit sought to restrict the use of valuable crop protection and public health products by alleging that the existing and long-standing registration of more than 380 chemicals might negatively impact 214 species in 49 states.

Dr. Mike Leggett, CLA’s senior director of environmental policy, issued the following statement in response to the NAS report:

“The National Academy of Sciences Committee on Ecological Risk Assessment under FIFRA and ESA affirmed the integrity of EPA's rigorous registration process. The conclusions of the committee are not surprising. The EPA registration process has evolved over time, incorporating the best available science in decision-making and it has previously undergone scrutiny by the National Academy on a number of occasions. This report also affirms our position that the current system of having multiple agencies conducting parallel risk assessments with the same information is duplicative and ineffective. The risk assessment currently conducted by EPA adequately protects endangered species while enabling American farmers to provide healthy, nutritious fruits and vegetables.”

Leggett continued: “Everyone from farmers to the regulators themselves agrees that the current system is broken and in desperate need of repair. A government turf war has created a redundant and costly process that does little to protect endangered species and threatens to disrupt nationwide food production. American farmers are continuously striving to improve production, growing more food on less land and conserving habitat for environmental protection. We look forward to working with the Agencies to implement the NAS recommendations that will encourage a more efficient, streamlined system to address crop protection registrations.”