Original Post by Amber Papa:
I think the FIFRA provision that allows U.S. banned pesticides to be sold a distributed to foreign countries is not smart in the era of Amazon and online shopping. This presents a risk to consumers because you can now purchase anything with one click of a button without giving it any thought where it could be coming from. As consumers, we expect that the products we buy are going to be “safe”, but like in the example of Amazon selling illegal products online, that is not always the case.
In a similar story, consumers were able to purchase various biocides and pesticides on eBay in the U.K., that have been banned in the EU for over a decade. An eBay spokesperson said they work closely to monitor eBay listings of illegal items, but these must have “slipped through a filter that should have blocked them” (Unearthed). The Health and Safety Executive of the U.K. commented that sellers outside of the EU are not subject to the same restrictions on pesticides and biocides, so it makes it more difficult on eBay to control. The article doesn’t mention any enforcement that was taken against eBay, and after further research it seems eBay hasn’t been fined. The fact that other countries that have not banned these pesticides are able to sell products on these websites is a major issue. There needs to be greater accountability for companies like eBay to ensure that their consumers are safe.
A shocking study on pesticide manufacturing in the U.S. showed that “from 2001 to 2003, the U.S. exported 28 million pounds of banned, severely restricted or unregistered pesticides to foreign countries” (Truthout 2020). In my opinion, it is very hypocritical to manufacture these “banned” substances in the very country that they are not allowed to be used in, and then turn around to sell them to poor countries for profit. What is even more perplexing is that most of our fruits and vegetables are imported from foreign countries, so the pesticides that are banned here are still entering our borders and being exposed to consumers through the residue on the produce. One example that stood out to me from the lecture was that most of our grapes come from Chile and they are exposed to DDT, which is a banned pesticide in the U.S. due to public health and environmental concerns. Not to mention that the pesticides that are being exported to these poorer third-world countries, mostly in South America and Southeast Asia, are exposing poor farmers and neighboring communities to toxic pesticides that are causing both acute and chronic illness.
I think one solution to this problem would be to create regulatory framework that will not only ban the use of these toxic pesticides in the U.S., but also in other parts of the world. We need to break the “circle of poison” to protect public health and the environment by promoting safer pesticide alternatives in the U.S. and abroad. I think countries need to work together to implement regulations that will be beneficial for all parties. A great example to follow would be the Sweden’s substitution principle, where pesticides are phased out once there is a safer alternative pesticide available for use.
Environmental Protection Agency. 2018. “Reference News Release: EPA Settles with Amazon for Distributions of Illegal Pesticides.” Accessed May 12, 2020. https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/reference-news-release-epa-settles-amazon-distributions-illegal-pesticides (Links to an external site.)
Mugler, Larry G. 2020. “Environmental Policy Law – Week 7 Pesticides Lecture.” Lecture, University College, Denver, CO, May, 2020.
Truthout. 2019. “Export of Banned US Pesticides Creates a Deadly Circle of Poison.” Accessed May 12, 2020. https://truthout.org/articles/export-of-banned-us-pesticides-creates-a-deadly-circle-of-poison/ (Links to an external site.)
Unearthed. 2018. “We were able to buy illegal and dangerous pesticides on eBay.” Accessed May 12, 2020. https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/07/25/ebay-pesticides-westminster-trading-standards-eu/
I decided to do further research about Sweden and am amazed by the nation’s ability to have already deeply influenced the European Union! I had no idea it would bring me to the topic mentioned in the lecture that Europe is significantly more proactive than the U.S. in pesticide management. I’m glad I was led to dive deeper into this, considering in my post I listed many examples of the U.S. attempting to retract the damage done by internationally sold, unregistered pesticides. While Sweden has dealt with the pollution from its industrialized neighbors, Los Angeles Times describes the nation as “a leader for almost half a century in research into the dangers of toxic compounds and efforts to protect its people and wildlife” (Cone 2005). Over 10,000 of its lakes and forests have been poisoned by acid rain. The diet is strongly seafood based, and much of its cherished Baltic Sea fish are tainted with industrial chemicals to the extent they are no longer edible. Sure, the tiny population and alternative economic forces result in Sweden not having to deal with as many internal obstacles to a clean environment. However, evidently, the nation is not too small-scale and simple to be exposed to challenges.
Rather, the relatable difficulty with pollution sparked Sweden’s innovation. The Swedes started by understanding the substance killing its fish and forests was acid rainfall. Further, the source of the acid rainfall was smokestack fumes. From there, Sweden knew how to efficiently mitigate the issue. Shortly thereafter, in the 1960s, the nation discovered PCBs. Then, in 1970, they banned the pesticide DDT two years before America did. The ability to detect a problem and act quickly are crucial elements of the substitution principle, and the competitive capitalist U.S. economy could thrive upon them.
After Sweden entered into the European Union (EU) in 1995, the organization’s policies have been significantly tightened. Sweden’s laws are “now the model for the European Union’s bans and restrictions on hundreds of chemicals found in everyday products, such as furniture, computers and hair sprays” (Cone 2005). However, according to Alastair Iles, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group, a major Sweden EU contribution called the precautionary principle is originally rooted in German philosophy. The tenants are based on vorsorgeprinzip, “translated as taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty” (Cone 2005). Instigated by fear, it was birthed from a 1986 German depiction of a society where unnecessary risk permeates all European grounds. The Swedes allowed its own nation to be impacted by Germany’s concept. Consequentially, according to Bo Walstrom, senior international advisor at the Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate, “a scientifically based suspicion of risk is enough under Swedish law to act against a chemical. To avoid action, an industry must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspicion is unfounded and that their product is safe” (Cone 2005). It’s essentially a reversed burden of proof. In 1991, Sweden officially solidified the reversed burn of proof, combined with the substitution principle, into its own law. Sweden then used both to guide the EU’s regulation.
What concerns may the U.S. have in the case its debating to incorporate the reversed burden of proof and substitution principle into its own international commerce law? As long as, through substituting substances, the U.S. manufacturers can still compete with manufacturers abroad, what’s the drawback? Is there some sort of lacking faith that all profitable materials can be substituted in a cost-effective manner? How may adopting the burden of proof and substitution principle impact other issues in the environmental law system?
Cone, Marla. 2005. “Sweden Leads Ban on Toxins.” Los Angeles Times. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2005-may-16-me-euroregsidebar16-story.html
Professor Dr. Aaron Ray’s Comment:
Thanks for the information about the Swedish approach. Your post mentioned that concern about acid rain spurred action in Europe. The Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air-Pollution (Links to an external site.) was signed in 1979 by 32 European countries, the US and Canada, to tackle acid rain. It is a good example of international cooperation on air pollution.
What do folks think about the role of international cooperation in policy areas where there are clear spillover effects (e.g., air pollution) versus those where the spillover effects are less immediately apparent and/or more complex (e.g., toxic substances production and use)?