Wild Birds Gain Protections from Poisoning by Deadly Pesticide

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Supreme Court denies Big Agriculture’s attempt to overturn EPA decision on carbofuran

In May 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case challenging a 2009 decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which mandated that as of December 31, 2009 no domestically grown food crop could be grown with carbofuran, a highly toxic chemical that has killed millions of wild birds.

Defenders has been fighting to ban the use of carbofuran for years—including filing an amicus brief in earlier court challenges—and the  2009 EPA decision was due in part to comments submitted by thousands of our dedicated supporters.

“The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case allows EPA’s decision to stand,” said Jason Rylander, senior attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. “The EPA decision confirmed what we’ve been saying for years: carbofuran is a deadly poison that has absolutely no place in our food or the environment. The Court’s action means that, in this case, the health and safety of the American people and our nation’s wildlife have trumped the profits of powerful corporations.” (Read the full statement.)

Special Interests Fight to Put Profits Over People—and Wildlife

Many consider carbofuran one of the greatest chemical threats to wild birds since DDT. It is responsible for killing millions of birds from more than 100 species—including bald and golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and migratory songbirds.  

In a 2006 decision, the EPA determined that carbofuran poses “an unreasonable risk to man and the environment, which outweighs the benefits of continued uses, and therefore all uses must be cancelled.” This decision not only set the stage for the eventual cancellation of registration for carbofuran—a process that can take several years—but also EPA’s 2009 decision to revoke all food tolerances of the poison.

FMC Corporation, which manufactures carbofuran, and the National Corn Growers Association immediately challenged the EPA decisions regarding food tolerances and were ultimately successful in overturning the decision regarding tolerances on imported foods, which means that imported foods such as rice, coffee and bananas may contain residues of carbofuran.With the court challenges to the tolerances completed,  the EPA will now proceed with cancelling all remaining registrations for carbofuran.

The Fight Is Not Over

Unfortunately, carbofuran continues to be used in many other countries around the world. In recent years it has been used illegally in eastern Africa to intentionally kill lions, birds, and other wildlife. Defenders will now focus our efforts on helping our partners in eastern Africa to ban this deadly pesticide. Learn more about what we’re doing to help protect African lions from carbofuran and other threats.

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