Trump administration plans to reduce pesticide testing on birds

Trump administration plans to reduce pesticide testing on birds
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it plans to reduce the use of pesticide testing on birds as part of Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA to resume contract negotiations with employee union Overnight Energy: Critics call EPA air guidance 'an industry dream' | New Energy secretary says Trump wants to boost coal | EPA looks to speed approval of disputed industry pollution permits Latest EPA guidance weakens air protections in favor of industry, critics say MORE’s push to roll back animal testing at the agency.

The draft policy unveiled Tuesday was created in collaboration with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and aims to avoid “unnecessary resource use, data generation costs, and animal testing,” the proposal states.

“One component of this is improved approaches to traditional toxicity tests to minimize the number of animals used while expanding the amount of information obtained,” the draft proposal reads. “Waiving studies, when they offer little additional scientific information or public health protection, is an important component of the guiding principles for data requirements.”

The rule would limit testing requirements for conventional pesticides used outdoors. The draft guidance is specifically aimed at reducing dietary testing on birds for pesticide registration — a method traditionally used to determine a pesticide’s toxicity on avian species.

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EPA officials describe the proposed rule change as a move toward favoring testing that doesn’t hurt animals.

“The draft policy represents another step toward the agency’s commitment to reduce animal testing while also ensuring that the agency receives enough information to support pesticide registration decisions that are protective of public health and the environment,” the EPA said in a press release.

Representatives for PETA hailed the draft rule.

"Waiving this test on birds will save time, taxpayer money, and hundreds of birds each year without compromising environmental health," said Amy Clippinger, president of the PETA International Science Consortium, in a statement. "This is a win for the environment and animals, and we commend the EPA on being proactive in changing its policy as a result of the study."

Scientists, however, have criticized the agency’s recent plans to roll back animal testing, arguing it opens the door to allowing more chemical and pesticide use in general amid a lack of adequate testing on live species.

The EPA last week announced a draft rule to completely eliminate animal testing requirements for chemicals by 2035. Critics have argued that such a rule would limit the full scope of available data on a chemical's impact on humans. They point to information surrounding the impact on humans from perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which have been linked to cancer, as an example.

The EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs typically requires that for the registration of conventional pesticides used outdoors, the agency must conduct a series of four studies on various bird types in order to avoid the reliance on a single test that may be “misleading in evaluating a pesticide that exhibits cumulative effects or one that is easily degraded.”

However, the agency in its analysis with PETA concluded that the EPA office could “confidently” assess a pesticide’s risk to birds using a single oral test involving delivery of the chemical using a capsule or tube into the stomach.

“The retrospective analysis indicates that for almost all the pesticides in which the risk conclusions across study types could be compared (>99%), the sub-acute dietary results had an obvious lack of impact on the risk conclusions already reached using the acute oral data,” the EPA’s draft statement read.

The agency added of its draft rule, “Waiving studies, when they offer little additional scientific information or public health protection, is an important component of the guiding principles for data requirements.”

The Trump administration has faced criticism for appearing to roll back species protections by reallowing the use of harmful pesticides on crops. For example, the EPA in in July announced it would allow for the expanded use of sulfoxaflor, a pesticide it considers toxic to bees. The move came just days after the Department of Agriculture said it was suspending data collection on the insects’ decline.