A pesticide that may have killed more than a million birds per year, every year for 40 years may get an 11th hour reprieve from the Bush Administration, according to the American Bird Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife.
The pesticide is widely used on cotton, corn, alfalfa, potato and rice crops to kill pests like the corn rootworm, alfalfa weevil, European corn borer and various aphids.
FMC Corp. challenged the Environmental Protection Agency's August 2006 ban on carbofuran, which the company markets as Furadan.
The EPA estimated in the 1980s that granular Furadan killed 1 million migratory birds each year, that it could kill up to 92% of a flock that lands on a field treated with the pesticide, that it threatened the health of farm workers and others that might come into contact with tainted food and water, and that there was no way to use the pesticide without killing birds. Like other overly toxic pesticides before it, Furadan should be banned, the EPA decided (the granular form most likely to be ingested by birds was banned in 1994, but the liquid form remains on the market). Last week, a new EPA scientific panel endorsed the decision to ban the pesticide and saw no reason to reverse it.
But FMC Corp. and some members of Congress are lobbying hard to reverse the decision, according to the conservation groups, which said this is the first manufacturer to challenge the cancellation of a pesticide registration in two decades.
Those who support keeping carbofuran on the market are stating their clear indifference to conserving wildlife and to exposing workers to toxins, said George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy. Carbofuran is harmful to human health, and one of the most deadly pesticides to birds left on the market. It is responsible for the deaths of millions of wild birds since its introduction in 1967, including Bald and Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and migratory songbirds. EPA has already said a firm no to the continued use of this substance, and lawmakers need to listen to the experts on this.
The conservation groups publicized these incidents involving Furadan:
In 2007, the deliberate misapplication of carbofuran by a Colorado farmer killed over 2,200 migratory birds, including Mourning Doves, Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles. The farmer pleaded guilty in federal court for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Other incidents of bird poisonings by carbofuran are documented in the operated by American Bird Conservancy in cooperation with the EPA and state and federal wildlife agencies.
The Birds in Agricultural Areas database also documents significant bird use in the major crops where carbofuran is sprayed.
In addition to killing birds when used legally, carbofuran is often illegally used in poison baits intended to kill wildlife in agricultural areas and grazing lands. This abuse has resulted in the deaths of raptors including Bald and Golden Eagles.
The conservation groups, which have sued and petitioned to stop the use of the pesticide, refer to carbofuran as a "dinosaur" because its legal use was grandfathered despite its toxicity, when the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act was passed in 1974, in great part due to the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962, which raised concerns about the use of man-made chemicals, particularly pesticides, and particularly their effect on birds.
The evidence is clear: carbofuran is toxic to wildlife and people. EPA should not fold to political pressures and allow this dangerous pesticide back on the market, said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. In 2006, more than 20,000 of our members and activists asked EPA to take carbofuran off the market. EPA made the right decision in 2006 and they should stick by that decision now.
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