The Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials’ Conference was held in Missoula, Mont.
The conversation at the 58th Annual Conference of the Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials had a familiar buzz (excuse the pun) — the issue of pollinator health.
Members of the ASPCRO community certainly have had their hands full with questions, investigations and calls for action from every stakeholder group with an interest in this ever-evolving issue.
Driven by high-profile incidents like the 2013 foliar application in Oregon that led to the death of more than 50,000 bees, consumer activism has reached the desks of many ASPCRO members. The association finds itself immersed in conversations with the U.S. EPA, beekeepers, pest management professionals and consumers on how best to proceed.
The conversation likely will take the shape of more directive labeling requirements on applications, language that has been on product labels but that will now be more prescriptive, says John Scott, ASPCRO president and pesticides program manager for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Scott is also a former pest management professional.
“What we will see is more direction on how and where applications can be made as states take a closer look at their own pollinator protection plans,” says Scott. “It is a very fluid situation right now and a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work because of the variables involved.”
ASPCRO has formed a committee to work on the label language issue and has produced a guidance document providing state agencies with an interpretation of the pollinator protection and non-agricultural language required by the EPA’s 2013 letter to registrants of neonicotinoid products.
The guidance document applies to outdoor, non-agricultural foliar applications of products containing clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam (excluding granulars).
The result is that a Pollinator Protection Box must be placed on the label following the Environmental Hazards section, and new language must be added to the Directions for Use section of each label. The guidance document is available on ASPCRO’s website (www.aspcro.org/documents/guid/nonagneonicguidance20140818.pdf).
Scott says the pollinator issue might be a look into the future of pest management and regulatory enforcement.
“We are watching in real-time how the industry is evolving and how all stakeholders are under greater scrutiny even as we work toward common goals,” says Scott.
Another thread of conversation that weaved its way through the three-day event, which was hosted by the Montana Department of Agriculture in Missoula, Mont., was the discussion of “tipping points” that potentially could shape the way both pest management professionals and regulators carry out their work.
The “tipping points” conversation included a panel discussion of industry stakeholders reviewing incidents where pesticide misapplications elicited a strong consumer and media response— especially on social media — that led to calls for expanded regulatory action.
Derrick Lastinger of the Georgia Department of Agriculture shared video taken from a day-care center camera showing an applicator making a pesticide treatment in an infant sleeping area and the center’s staff returning the children to the area minutes after the application.
The public outcry and ensuing media coverage led to an investigation that saw the applicator fined $96,000 and having his licensed revoked. It also led the state to craft more stringent application guidelines, recordkeeping and posting requirements.
Colorado’s Scott cited a recent incident in Boulder, Colo., where media reports that “bees were falling out of the sky” appeared on a Sunday afternoon.
“The media and social media were all over the story before we even received an official call to investigate,” says Scott. “Today, any application runs the risk of becoming a media event and that is hard on both the PMP and regulatory community.”
The root cause of these “tipping points” is usually when product labels are not followed by applicators. Scott says placing additional restrictions on labels, however, won’t get to the root of the real issue.
“The solution to the issue of pesticide misapplications is consistent and ongoing training of applicators,” says Scott. “They need to understand the power of the product and how best the products are to be used within specific situations.”
Scott says today’s pest management technician has a more complex and challenging job than at any other time in the industry’s history. Technicians must consider a much wider number of factors including a consumer’s mindset toward pesticides, the product’s mode(s) of action and how they plan on applying the product to yield the desired affect while leaving the smallest environmental impact.
Regulators and industry also continue to ensure that sound science is consistently introduced into the product registration debate. Today’s information overload adds a lot of competing noise to the discussion and can be a hindrance in the eventual search for the correct solution or answer.
“The science is out there and available and needs to be factored into the process,” says Scott. “However, the lines between opinion and science get blurred and the industry as a whole must be persistent in the search of sound science and presenting the facts.”
Regulators in the United States currently work on a risk-based system where the benefits a product offers in protecting public health or property are weighed vs. the risk it presents. Scott says he sees a day where this country’s regulators work under the system the European Union uses, which is heavily geared toward a precautionary approach to product registration.
ASPCRO announced the date and location for the 2015 conference. The event will take place Aug. 23-26, 2015, at the Harbor Beach Resort in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Visit www.aspcro.org for more information.
Q&A With ASPCRO President
PCT sat down with ASPCRO President John Scott, pesticides program manager for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, to discuss the current regulatory climate, what “tipping points” are on the horizon and how cooperation is benefiting both regulators and PMPs.
PCT: How has ASPCRO’s relationship with the professional pest management industry evolved during the time you’ve been involved in the organization?
JS: ASPCRO has always had a good working relationship to address regulatory issues with the regulated community. Over the last several years we’ve been able to work together to address many issues of interest to both the regulated community and state lead agencies. Whether it has been labeling changes to pyrethroids, rodenticides and most recently pollinator language, ASPCRO’s working relationship with industry has never been stronger.
PCT: How have ASPCRO, NPMA, UPFDA and RISE worked together in the past to address various industry issues?
JS: ASPCRO has several working committees that have been developed to address multiple regulatory issues. Most committees have representation from state lead agencies, registrants, extension and the pest management industry so all angles of any regulatory issue can be considered. As new issues arise the appropriate committee addresses concerns and together they develop workable solutions that can be presented to the ASPCRO membership and EPA.
PCT: What are the most pressing issues you see impacting the pest management industry?
JS: Given the number of factors exerting force on the pest management industry, the future of pest management is on the top of ASPCRO’s list. Technology continues to evolve by leaps and bounds and how pest professionals perform their duties within these new technologies and how states may need to adjust existing regulations or create new regulations are issues that need to be considered.
ASPCRO and the industry also continue to see an ever dwindling list of pesticide products and allowed uses, with few products coming onto the market to replace them. ASPCRO members also understand the need to have available, effective chemistries with the allowed uses to control pest problems that can be detrimental to the environment and public health.
The last issue we see that affects everyone is an increasingly environmentally conscious public that continue to push for more regulatory restrictions on pesticides and pesticide applications. ASPCRO certainly agrees with and supports regulatory changes to protect the environment and public health when the decisions are based on sound science.
PCT: Do you see the pollinator health issue going away any time soon? Why or why not?
JS: No, probably not anytime soon. I believe pollinator health will remain a top concern for states and EPA until such time that someone definitively identifies the cause(s) for colony collapse disorder and those causes are addressed or bee health surges back to levels where the CCD topic is not at the forefront of any discussion surrounding pesticides. Until that time I believe it will remain a hot topic of discussion. ASPCRO has been and continues to work with EPA, AAPCO and SFIREG to address evolving pollinator language as it applies to non-agricultural applications.
PCT: What are the key “pressure points” currently between ASPCRO and the professional pest management industry?
JS: I wouldn’t categorize these as “pressure points,” but I do feel pesticide misuse continues to be an issue that has impacts for both the regulated industry and regulatory agencies. I believe all ASPCRO members would agree that the vast majority of pest management professionals are trying to do things correctly and abide by the label requirements. Unfortunately, what makes it into the news are applicators that misuse pesticides with detrimental impacts to the environment and general public. When these cases are picked up by the media, EPA and the regulatory agencies are viewed as not doing our job to prevent these events from occurring or that current regulations are not working. In addition, quick and severe actions are expected to take place and as a result the pest management industry is ultimately impacted with more restrictive labeling and regulations.
PCT: If the industry could do one thing to improve the regulatory climate as it relates to structural pest control, what would it be?
JS: Continue to work closely with your local state agencies. This includes working closely...on proposed rules and having open and candid discussion on the impacts and benefits of proposed regulations. No one likes new regulations, but there are times when they are necessary to address issues that have come about from evolving technologies and environmental or public concerns. Working together creates workable solutions that both the regulated industry and your state agency can live with.
In addition, help police your industry by informing your state lead agency of uncertified or unlicensed applicators or cases of misuse. Some states will take reports of unlicensed applicators or misuse occurrences anonymously if you can provide them with basic information such as a license plate of a vehicle, the location where you saw that person working or any documentation you provide, for example, paperwork. These are all pieces of evidence that a state lead agency may be able to use to initiate an investigation.
PCT: How has heightened consumer awareness impacted the way ASPCRO members regulate?
JS: Social media and the Internet have definitely had impacts on the expectation of consumers. There are a number of occasions where a pesticide incident is reported in the media before the regulatory agency has even been notified of the incident. An ever increasing environmentally conscious public who have access to the endless amount of information...has resulted in an expectation of not only transparency but quick resolution to any incident. Despite these expectations, states must continue to carry out their regulatory obligations in a non-biased, systematic manner that withstands the additional scrutiny from an ever-demanding consumer.
The author is a partner of B Communications, an integrated communications/marketing firm. Email him at email@example.com.