EPA Drops Plan for Pesticide Endorsements and Cause Marketing
Loophole Left for Case-by-Case Okays of Label Pesticide Pitches, Plugs and Logos
Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formally withdrawn a proposal to allow pesticide manufacturers to display “third-party endorsements” and charitable tie-ins on their labels. The agency acknowledged that these commercial displays on pesticide labels could confuse consumers and distract from safe usage directions on insecticides, herbicides, rat poisons and anti-microbial agents, echoing objections lodged by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In January 2007, EPA approved a special promotional tie-in between the American Red Cross and Clorox to promote its bleach products. In October 2007, EPA unveiled a plan to evaluate and approve third-party endorsements as well as “cause marketing” on all regulated pesticide products.
In a Federal Register notice of September 30, 2008, EPA announced that it was withdrawing its proposal;
“After reviewing public comments, the Agency agrees that cause marketing claims and third-party endorsements…generally would not contribute meaningfully to improving protection of human health and the environment. The addition of such statements is not likely to enhance users’ ability to understand the labeling required to inform the user about how to use the product safely and effectively. In fact, the addition of such statements could interfere with that goal.”
Despite conceding the potential harm, EPA indicates that it will now review any such applications for pesticide promotions on a “case-by-case” basis, without benefit of a rule or a policy.
“What at first seems like a refreshing dash of sanity becomes a head scratcher when one reads EPA’s full notice,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization led opposition to the plan. “EPA should not be in the business, either directly or in-directly, of promoting pesticides.”
EPA indicates that while it “generally discourages the submission of applications to add cause marketing claims or third-party endorsements” the agency does leave the door open to future approvals:
- EPA did not rescind its approval of displaying the Red Cross symbol on Clorox products;
- The agency indicated an interest in adding “’green labeling’ on pesticide labels”; and
- While the notice states “EPA believes it would benefit from consultation with states and a public comment period”, the agency did not promise any transparency or notice requirements. As a result, decisions can still be made in closed-door meetings with corporate lobbyists.
“EPA should be spending its limited time addressing climate change, not crafting corporate campaigns to boost the sales of commercial poisons,” added Ruch, noting that the EPA notice did admit it would “be better to allocate its resources to other initiatives.” “Case-by-case review means that it has to meet with every manufacturer who knocks when EPA should instead just post a ‘No Solicitors’ sign.”