July 18, 1997
Cotton Farmers Denied Carbofuran Exemption
Due to concerns about children's health, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) turned down requests
from six states that wanted to use flowable (liquid)
carbofuran on cotton. Arkansas, California, Louisiana,
Mississippi and Texas requested Section 18 emergency
exemptions to control cotton aphids with flowable carbofuran,
which is not registered for use on cotton. Under Section 18
of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act,
EPA can grant temporary emergency exemptions to allow
unregistered uses of pesticides.
Carbofuran is a broad spectrum carbamate pesticide that kills
insects, nematodes and mites. Liquid formulations are
classified by EPA as "Restricted Use Pesticides" (RUP) due to
acute oral and inhalation toxicity to humans. Granular forms
are banned for most uses due to widespread bird kills.
Prior to the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), the agency
had approved similar exemption requests in 1995 and 1996.
According to the agency, analyses required by FQPA showed
that flowable carbofuran presents an acute dietary risk to
infants and children through drinking water contamination.
Elizabeth Haeberer, an official with EPA's Registration
Division, stated that to protect children, carbofuran levels
in drinking water could be no higher than five parts per
billion (ppb) -- she added that monitoring data have found
residue levels as high as 40 ppb.
FMC Corporation, the sole U.S. manufacturer and distributor
or carbofuran, has complained that FQPA has "handcuffed" EPA.
According to Pesticide and Toxic Chemical News, FMC is
reviewing EPA's analysis to ensure the agency treated the
emergency use request in a manner "consistent" with other
proposed uses. FMC is hoping the agency will grant a new
registration allowing treatment of cotton foliage with liquid
formulations of carbofuran, which would mean growers could
use the pesticide without having to seek emergency
EPA's Haeberer said that water exposure is driving the
decision, however, and that "the way things stand, they (FMC)
won't get that use." She indicated that it is highly unlikely
EPA will change its position unless FMC presents "a whole
bunch of monitoring data that shows there is no problem."
Meredith Johnson, an official with EPA's Office of Pesticide
Programs (OPP), stated that OPP's recent reviews suggest
carbofuran poses an unacceptable risk generally, not just in
cotton. This could mean that some existing approved uses of
the pesticide would be cancelled. Carbofuran is registered
for use on alfalfa, corn, rice, soybeans, potatoes, small
grains and some minor crops such as bananas. EPA estimates
that approximately 1.2 million to 2.5 million lbs. of liquid
carbofuran are used each year in the U.S. An additional
252,500 lbs. of granular carbofuran are used on rice. Had EPA
granted this exemption for cotton, Louisiana and Mississippi
would have used up to 500,000 lbs. of the pesticide on up to
one million acres of cotton.
The Cotton Council, which represents growers, believes that
cotton farmers will face "serious challenges" this year. A
representative of the Council said that alternative aphid
controls are more expensive and less effective. He estimated
that one million to five million acres could be damaged by
the aphids, but acknowledged that it could be much less.
Sources: Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News, July 9, July 2 and
May 7, 1997; Carbofuran, Extension Toxicology Network,
September 1993; Meredith Johnson, personal communication,
July 16, 1997.
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