The U.S. Supreme Court has denied the petition by the National Corn Growers (NCG) and FMC Corporation to revisit the decision by the District of Columbia Appeals Court that effectively banned one of the most toxic pesticides to birds and the environment ever produced.
FMC and NCG sought to reverse an Environmental Protection Agency decision to ban the pesticide - trade name Furadan - which is used on a variety of crops that make their way onto dinner tables all across America. FMC wants to keep producing carbofuran in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence linking it to farm-worker poisoning and the deaths of millions of birds of more than 100 species, including Bald Eagles, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Pintails and American Kestrels.
FMC's action to appeal was unprecedented. Never before had a pesticide producer so flagrantly put its interest in maximizing future profits ahead of human and wildlife health.
Their tactic was to tie EPA in a Gordian knot of never-ending litigation. That concept is catching on. Most recently, Reckitt Benckiser began a similar course of action in an effort to prevent restrictions on d-Con, the No. 1 over-the-counter rat and mouse bait that is responsible for the deaths of birds of prey that feed on poisoned rodents.
If more companies decide to follow the FMC example and flex their corporate muscle every time a science-based environmental ruling does not go their way, the deep pockets of industry could undermine the way we regulate pesticides in this country.
To prevent millions of taxpayer dollars being wasted defending sound EPA decisions, and to ensure the safety of our environment and its wildlife, we must change our pesticide registration process.
In the U.S., hazardous pesticides can be registered if the risk of exposure to people or wildlife is deemed ''acceptable.'' However, because EPA is pressured to quickly register chemicals under the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, the data informing of that risk is not always complete.
By contrast, in Europe, pesticides with carcinogenic, endocrine disrupting, reproductive, or mutagenic effects are denied registration from the outset, regardless of potential exposure. This holds industry to a higher standard and pushes them to develop safer chemicals, while dramatically reducing the likelihood that, in the face of better, real-world exposure data, a pesticide will need to be taken off the market later. We need to follow Europe's example and go one step further by also preventing chemicals harmful to wildlife from ever reaching the market.
The ecological effects of pesticides can be insidious, and our collective memories are short. It has now been more than 35 years since DDT was banned, and we have since been lulled into believing that our environment is adequately protected by an agency whose hands are tied by outdated, industry-centric regulations.
At a time when government spending is under ever-closer scrutiny, we have an opportunity to reduce fiscal waste while also taking care of the real bottom line, the future health of our planet.
Fenwick is president of the American Bird Conservancy.