WASHINGTON — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that the widely used insecticide malathion poses no extinction risk to a single protected animal or plant and declined to implement enforcement measures to protect the species. chemical poison.
Today’s final biological opinion, which relies on scientifically unsubstantiated assessment methods imposed under the Trump administration, stands in stark contrast to the agency’s 2017 conclusion that 1,284 species are likely to be threatened by malathion.
The advisory even backtracked on a draft biological advisory released by the Service last year, which also used the debunked Trump-era methodology promoted by the pesticide industry to determine that 78 endangered plant and animal species of extinction were threatened by the pesticide.
“The Biden administration squandered a historic opportunity to curb the dangerous use of one of the world’s worst neurotoxic pesticides,” said Lori Ann Burd, director of environmental health at the Center for Biological Diversity. “By ignoring the best available science and choosing to rely on unenforceable promises of good behavior from pesticide manufacturers rather than real conservation action on the ground, the Biden administration is condemning wildlife to the extinction with a wink and a nod. This decision to give in to powerful special interest groups will cause tremendous harm to our most endangered wildlife.
A week ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service, a sister agency of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, released an updated biological opinion that determined that malathion and two other toxic organophosphate pesticides endanger virtually all U.S. species. endangered salmon, sturgeon and rainbow trout, as well as orcas in Puget Sound.
The Fisheries Service advisory debunks the Trump methodology that based damage analyzes on historical usage data known to be incomplete and unreliable. Specifically, the Department of Fisheries found that: “Given the degree of uncertainty and speculation associated with these factors, and usage information generally, we have determined that in most cases, we cannot not rely on them to build assumptions about exposure potential and at the same time ensure listed species will not be threatened.
Yet the Fish and Wildlife Service continued to rely heavily on the same historical use data in its analyzes to reach conclusions that the pesticide would not harm endangered species in the future.
The two agencies’ wildly disparate findings were highlighted in damage assessments for bull trout and salmon, biologically similar species that share habitat in the Pacific Northwest. The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that malathion will not harm bull trout in Pacific Northwest streams; meanwhile, the Fisheries Service has concluded that using the same chemical in the same streams is driving all Pacific salmon to extinction.
“One is based on sound science and the other is industry-driven policy,” Burd said. “The Fisheries Service takes a brave stand to prevent extinctions while Fish and Wildlife continues to pander to an anti-science, anti-endangered species agenda.”
Today’s Final Biological Opinion restricts some uses of malathion, in theory, but contains loopholes that make the restrictions meaningless in the real world. For example, the spraying of malathion against mosquitoes is restricted “where possible”. But what makes the restrictions unworkable is undefined, effectively giving the green light to virtually all pesticide spraying.
This analysis is the first National Biological Opinion conducted by the Fish and Wildlife Service for any pesticide. But it has adopted industry-friendly methodologies for species harm assessments that were ordered after direct intervention by President Trump’s Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
“The reason the Biden administration is hiding behind David Bernhardt’s twisted legal thinking so it can ignore the harrowing extinction crisis is beyond amazement,” Burd said. “President Biden’s conservation promises are meaningless if this administration doesn’t even have the backbone to stand up to the corporations that poison our planet and our children.”
Approximately 1 million pounds of malathion are used in the United States each year. The insecticide is a neurotoxin that is part of the dangerous class of older pesticides called organophosphates. Organophosphates have been used as nerve agents in chemical warfare and have been linked to Gulf War Syndrome, which causes fatigue, headaches, skin problems and respiratory problems in humans.
In January 2017, the EPA completed its biological assessment on malathion, determining that 97% of federally protected species are likely damaged by malathion. Following the announcement, Dow AgroSciences officials asked the Trump administration to suspend assessments.
In May 2017, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced that after nearly four years of work, its draft biological advisory assessing the harms of the pesticide was nearing completion and would be ready for public comment within months. As career Fish and Wildlife Service staff members prepared to make the biological opinion available for public comment, they briefed Trump’s political appointees, including Acting Interior Secretary Bernhardt, on the findings. the agency’s nearly four years of rigorous scientific review.
Following that briefing, senior Trump Interior Department officials, including Bernhardt, moved to suspend publication of the Service’s assessment indefinitely. The unprecedented efforts of the Trump administration to undermine these findings were highlighted in a New York Times investigation.
A document obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the assessments were suspended after key policymakers were informed that the Service’s analysis had determined that malathion jeopardized the continued existence of 1,284 protected species.
In the years that followed, the findings prompted the EPA to take no action to limit the use of malathion in areas where the species are endangered.
Under a legal agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service was to issue a biological advisory by the end of 2017 identifying ways to protect endangered species from malathion, along with two other organophosphate insecticides, chlorpyrifos and diazinon. , as required by the Endangered Species Act. Cash Act. The Trump administration has refused to honor the legal agreement.
In May 2018, the Center again sued the EPA and the Service for failing to comply with its obligation to study the impacts of malathion, prompting the agency to release today’s assessment. today.
Last month, the Center sued the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to complete endangered species consultations regarding the pesticides chlorpyrifos and diazinon.