Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Reviewing bad ideas on a case-by-case basis

Cast your mind back to last December, when I was railing at the EPA on this very blog for their wrong-headed and potentially dangerous proposal to allow "Cause-Related Marketing" on pesticide labels.

Cause-related marketing means, for example, selling a bottle of pesticide with the Red Cross logo on it, perhaps promising to donate a portion of the product's sale to the charity. As you can imagine, many people, including many state attorneys general, pesticide administrators from across US states, Toxic Free NC and our allies, went nuts. Good people like you sent in reams of comments to the EPA decrying the proposal, and the agency was forced to extend the comment period to accommodate them all.

The EPA heard us. They heard the public saying "ARE YOU INSANE?" and decided that they never should have told us about the idea in the first place.

Today the EPA released its decision on the matter: they have decided to withdraw the proposal and to discourage cause-related marketing on pesticide containers. This is almost like disallowing the practice, except not. Here's what they had to say about the matter in a news release:

"Although EPA will review any future application it receives, EPA is now generally discouraging the submission of applications to add cause marketing claims or third-party endorsements.

"...If it receives such an application, the Agency expects to decide on a case-by-case basis both what information would be necessary to carefully evaluate the proposed claims and whether a product containing such a claim could meet the applicable statutory and regulatory standards for approval."
What does that mean, exactly? Don't send us an application to put charity logos on your pesticides because it's potentially hazardous to human health and the environment, but if you do, we'll review it on a case-by-case basis.

Come again?

This is like a mild victory for common sense, but without the sting of defeat. Plus the added bonus of secrecy. Something for everyone!

EPA says in its decision: "EPA recognizes that its resources are limited and should be targeted towards activities that will enhance protection of human health and the environment from pesticides." In other words, EPA's shouldn't waste its resources developing standards for evaluating label proposals, then sending them out for public comment again, revising them, notifying the public about pending applications, yadda yadda yadda. If they get an application, they'll just deal with it under cover of darkness - it's more efficient that way.

Is this a lesson in how to make everybody happy by sweeping the issue under the rug?

Under this decision, we won't know when EPA gets an application for cause-related marketing on a pesticide label, nor what standards they would use to evaluate it. If you should happen to find a bottle of Killz-All at the store with your local children's hospital logo on it, you'll know they approved one.

But that probably won't happen, because they're going to discourage it.

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