The court battles over glyphosate continue, and the latest move by EPA shows the agency believes more work needs to be done. In response to a June decision by the Ninth Circuit Court, the agency has withdrawn its interim decision for registration review of glyphosate.
That doesn’t take the product off the market but means the agency is going back to the drawing board to work on a final registration covering more off-target drift, cancer risk and Endangered Species Act issues, a move that won’t be completed until 2026.
In response to the news Amy van Saun, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety, and lead counsel in the case against EPA says that instead of complying with the court’s directive “(EPA) was simply taking its ball and going home: EPA scrapped the entire glyphosate registration it had previously approved adding the rest to the parts the Court had already held unlawful and set aside.”
Responding to the court, the agency outlined the challenge of meeting the court’s October 1 imposed deadline. EPA had petitioned the court on August 1 to for a rehearing seeking relief from the deadline for the ecological portion of the interim decision. In the response EPA officials explained while the court “did not define what it meant by ‘issue a new ecological portion,’ the Agency would not be able to finalize a new ecological portion in a registration review decision by the October 1, 2022 deadline.”
On August 5, the court denied EPA’s petition for a panel rehearing without opinion.
Based on that, the agency has vacated the interim registration decision for glyphosate. This interim decision is part of EPA’s regular registration review of pesticide registrations to “ensure that each pesticide registration continues to satisfy the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act standard for registration. The aim is to make sure the product can perform its intended function without unreasonable adverse effects on human health or the environment.
Tight deadline for glyphosate
The challenge, outlined by EPA, is that the tight court requirement to revise the registration was unreasonable given the steps that must be taken to meet what the court requires. In its statement regarding withdrawal of the interim registration, the agency says it “determined that withdrawal is appropriate in light of the Ninth Circuit’s June 17, 2022 decision and the particular circumstances of glyphosate’s registration review and ESA assessment.”
In the statement, EPA states: “Insofar as the court has ordered EPA to finalize a ‘new ecological portion,’ doing so through another interim registration review decision or final registration review decision would involve significant and lengthy steps.”
The key is the time needed to tackle the challenge put before EPA by the court. The process involves proposing a decision and opening that up for public comment for at least 60 days, then consider the comments received. EPA notes that when the proposed interim decision was first published in May 2019, the agency received 283,300 public comments comprising more than 12,000 unique submissions. It took nine months to finalize before the final interim decision was published in Feb. 2020.
Attorney van Saun says the news of the withdrawal is a major victory because “EPA has now conceded defeat for all of the broken interim registration. On the other hand, today’s announcement is also an irresponsible cop-out to try and get around the Court’s deadline to fix its legal violations.”
In her statement, van Saun notes that EPA should “cancel glyphosate products, until and unless it re-assesses its risks and assures its safety in a lawful way.”
In its response to the court, EPA notes that “although the glyphosate (interim decision) is now vacated in part and the remainder withdrawn, that does not automatically mean that EPA’s underlying scientific findings regarding glyphosate, including its finding that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans, are either incorrect or cannot be used a support for a future decision following reconsidering in accordance with the court’s decision.