Sulfuryl Fluoride Legislation In D.C.
Sulfuryl fluoride is a highly toxic food fumigant used on post-harvest foods in warehouses and mills – but not on organic foods. Dow AgroSciences, one of the nation’s largest pesticide manufacturers, along with various food companies including the peanut industry, have spent much of 2013 lobbying U.S. Congressional respresentatives in the House and Senate in an effort to reverse the EPA’s proposed phase-out of the highly toxic food fumigant sulfuryl fluoride. If successful, their efforts would have removed key health protections from the Food Quality Protection Act, a law passed in 1996 to give more protection for a child’s exposure to pesticides. Not only would reversal of the phase-out expose children to incredibly high levels of fluoride residues on their food, but this would also make it harder for anyone living in the U.S. to avoid fluoride, as foods fumigated with Sulfuryl fluoride have no labeling requirement.
FAN became involved with Sulfuryl Fluoride in 2001 when Dow AgroSciences first petitioned US EPA for an Experimental Use Permit for its use on raisins and walnuts. FAN submitted comments and formal Objections and then in 2004 and 2005 EPA approved its use and high fluoride residues on all processed food, beans, grains, flour -and much more, including a fluoride residue of 900 ppm on dried eggs! FAN collaborated with two great groups, the Environmental Working Group and Beyond Pesticides, and a masterful pro-bono lawyer (Perry E. Wallace, Esq.), to reverse EPA’s approval, through a series of substantive submissions to the US EPA.
Incredibly, after many years of hard work, in January 2011, EPA concluded that it agreed with “all” of our objections and published their proposal to phase-out sulfuryl fluoride in the Federal Register. According to protocol, EPA simultaneously solicited public comments on the phase-out. Since then Dow AgroSciences, the proprietary maker of sulfuryl fluoride, has done everything a powerful corporation can do to dissuade EPA from enacting the phase-out. EPA has yet to issue its final decision.
This past year, Dow worked harder than ever to reverse the phase-out using their Congressional lapdogs and lobbyists in Washington, D.C. to introduce not one, but four different pieces of legislation to accomplish their goal. Fortunately, FAN was prepared to work just as hard to protect the phase-out and our nation’s children.
The first attempt in 2013 was a House bill titled the Pest Free Food Supply Act (H.R.1496), and was sponsored by Representative Tom Graves (R-Georgia) along with 14 co-sponsors from various farming states. The bill would have required the EPA to withdraw their proposed phase-out of Sulfuryl Fluoride. It was introduced in the House Energy and Commerce Committee in April, but FAN acted quickly to generate hundreds of emails, letters, and phone calls to committee members prior to a public hearing on the bill. Our intense opposition and that of our colleagues, Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides and also EWG, kept the bill from even making it out of the committee.
The pesticide-lobby’s second attempt was in the Senate, where Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly (R) proposed amendment #1122 (“Exclusion of fluoride from aggregate exposure) for the Senate version of the Farm Bill in June. Again, FAN and Beyond Pesticides responded quickly by targeting Agriculture committee members, generating hundreds of letters and phone calls from constituents to Senators, and working with our sulfuryl fluoride coalition to get information to Senate leadership. As a result, the amendment was tabled by the Senate leadership and not included on their version of the Farm bill.
Not to be deterred, Dow had Representative Tom Graves amend the House Appropriations bill with phase-out reversal language. In response, FAN sent staff down to D.C. to meet with House and Senate members on the Appropriations committees. In the process we made a number of legislative allies, had House members speak out publicly in opposition to the amendment, and were able to get commitments from Senators that they would oppose the amendment if it made it out of the House. So far, the Appropriations bill carrying Rep. Graves’ amendment has stalled in committee, and will not be voted on in 2013.
The fourth attempt to end the phase-out may be the most devious. In the House’s version of the Farm Bill there is a section that calls for an economic impact study of the phase-out of Sulfuryl fluoride. While this may seem innocuous, we suspect it’s really an attempt to keep the possibility of a phase-out reversal on the table in negotiations on the final Farm Bill text between the House and Senate. Not only hasthe EPA already conducted an economic impact study that showed that alternatives to SF would actually save the food industry money in the long run, but because SF is simply mentioned in the House version being negotiated by a joint conference committee, it’s possible that the language could be amended as part of those negotiations. So far, SF has not been discussed by Farm Bill conferees, and changes have not been made to the language, but FAN has continued to contact Senators urging them to oppose any SF language in the final version of the Farm bill.
If successful, a reversal of FAN’s hard fought victory would make the United States one of only two western nations to allow sulfuryl fluoride on food. Should this happen, it will increase the number of American children ingesting unsafe levels of fluoride, and create a food poisoning risk for consumers who purchase food that contains permissible levels of the fumigant. We cannot allow this to happen!
While the House appropriations and House Farm Bill amendment are still viable, our lobbying has created a number of allies for us in the both legislative bodies, and we are confident that these amendments will not pass in 2013. Of course, while we have been successful in 2013, we can rest assure that Dow will not give up their fight in 2014. This is why we need your continued support. We both need each other for this campaign to succeed, and so far we have proved to be a good match! Please help us protect our nation’s children and the safety of our food supply by making a tax-deductible contribution today.