Photo by andypowe11 on Flickr Creative Commons
The American Bird Conservancy recently made a straightforward request to the Environmental Protection Agency: Revoke import tolerance—the maximum residue levels allowed in or on food imported into the U.S.—of 13 pesticides toxic to birds and, in some cases, dangerous to humans who have had too much exposure.
Though the U.S. has already banned all of these pesticides, including dimethoate, phorate and dichlorvos (used on blueberry, coffee and tomato crops, respectively), many Latin and South American countries still employ them. This poses a problem, ABC’s petition reads, because “billions of U.S. migratory birds overwinter in countries that currently have registrations for these pesticides.”
ABC contends that Executive Order 13186—a 2001 decree signed by former President Bill Clinton requiring executive federal agencies to take into account how their activities affect migratory birds, whether directly or indirectly—obliges the EPA to make this happed. “Doing so will not only potentially save millions of Neotropical migratory birds,” the petition states, “but will also encourage the use of legal, safer pesticides and non-chemical practices by foreign growers.”
ABC has the data, in the form of its Avian Incident Monitoring System, to prove these pesticides’ harmful effects. For example:
- - Between 1972 and 2000, dimethoate was connected with the deaths of 123 cedar waxwings, 16 wild turkeys, one rock pigeon and hundreds of Canada geese
- - Between 1972 and 1994, phorate was linked to more than 2,930 bird deaths
- - Between 1972 and 1994, dichlorvos poisoning killed eight birds, including domestic chickens, mallards and bluebirds
Petitioning the EPA to ban substances toxic to birds isn’t new for ABC; in 2007, the organization asked the EPA to cancel import tolerances of carbofuran, what ABC’s Conservation Advocacy Director Michael Fry calls the worst pesticide in the U.S. for many birds.
ABC expanded its efforts this year by looking at all pesticides cancelled in the U.S. for which import tolerances still exist. “We got a list of 53 different pesticides,” Fry says. “Then we just did the background research. We found that 13 of those [the 13 petitioned against] were particularly hazardous to birds.” If the EPA doesn’t respond, ABC will likely sue, Fry says.
If you’re interested in taking action, Fry suggests writing to or e-mailing Lisa Jackson, the new EPA administrator or Debra Edwards, director of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs showing your support for the banning of these pesticides.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Pesticide Programs
Division Mail Code
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20460