WASHINGTON, DC - CropLife America (CLA) remains committed in believing that the Endangered Species Act is an important and valuable program, but one which requires extensive reform. This is further evidenced by a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on January 19, 2011. This lawsuit alleges that EPA has failed to consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service ("the Services") to ensure that crop protection products do not jeopardize endangered species, while the plaintiffs overlook the numerous benefits of modern agriculture, its rigorous regulatory oversight and proven role in protecting America's wildlife.

"The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is an important legislative vehicle which helps facilitate the conservation of endangered plants and animals, yet the litigation filed by CBD and PANNA reflects the much larger issue: real ESA reform is required to protect endangered species," said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA. "However, litigation does not help to improve a system which can only be fixed through sound policy and legislation."

Vroom continued, "Just a few days ago, President Obama signed an executive order to review the U.S. regulatory system, and an exemplary case of conflicting regulatory bodies can be found in the ESA program. The consultation process between EPA and the Services as mandated by Section 7(a)(2) is broken, and the Services often ignore EPA's expert science and instead chooses to use faulty or out-of-date scientific data. As such, the current system is costly, inefficient, does not reflect the latest innovations and advancements in crop protection products, and fails to adequately protect species. Given these inherent flaws, the resolution proposed by CBD and PANNA may lead to an even more devastating impact than they anticipate, threatens all of modern U.S. agriculture, and demonstrates the inherent fault in Section 7(a)(2)."

Crop protection products play an important role in protecting America's native and endangered species. Modern agricultural practices allow for America's growers to maximize the use of existing land and prevent encroaching upon wildlife. Pesticide products also help maintain habitat for endangered species by controlling the growth of noxious and harmful weeds that invade their surroundings. Alongside these benefits, crop protection products undergo more than 120 health, safety and environmental tests – a development, review and registration process that requires eight to 10 years – to ensure their safety and effectiveness. It is with this effectiveness that America's farmers are able to produce 18 percent of the global food supply on only 10 percent of the world's farmland.

CLA has previously filed a petition with suggested improvements to the ESA consultation process. Those suggestions included making documents used by the Services during consultation available to all key stakeholders, including documents and studies, available to the applicant; providing a role for the applicant in an informal consultation; and providing for a comment period following the required submission of the agency's biological assessment to any state(s) affected by the agency action and a requirement that the Services respond to any state-written comments on the assessment.

"A better consultation process between EPA and the Services begins with full consideration of the best available science and inclusive stakeholder input," Vroom added. "By openly using the high-quality data available from EPA, state regulatory agencies and registrants, it is possible to continue to ensure the safety of America's wildlife, while still allowing farmers access to the modern agricultural tools they require to produce an abundant and safe food supply."

SOURCE: CropLife America