[SF Chronicle/AP]: Bush administration eases pesticide review for endangered species: The Environmental Protection Agency will be free to approve pesticides without consulting wildlife agencies to determine if the chemical might harm plants and animals protected by the Endangered Species Act, according to new Bush administration rules.
The latest example Barry Commoner once wisely called ‘linguistic detoxification’ — and that unfortunately has been going on for ten years, according to the article.
If only wishing made it so.
Steve Williams, the Fish and Wildlife director, said it was too complex to have to consider every possible result among the interaction of hundreds of active chemicals and 1,200 threatened and endangered species.
Sorry your job is so hard, Steve. The fact is this is a core problem with our entire pesticie management and checmical regulatory strategies. We know synergic effects of combinations of substances can have impacts orders of magnitude greater than individual substances. But the combinatorics are overwhelming (just do the math for how many possilbe combinations of ‘hundreds of active chemicals’ or for the tens of thousands in broad use). And we persist in treating synthetic chemicals — read: untested by biological evolution — under the standard of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ instead of the more prudent alternatives, such as:
– the precautionary principle, which revereses the burden of proof (prove that it’s safe, vs prove that it’s dangerous)
– class based approaches, which decide based on the characteristics of classes of substances (such as ‘organophosphates,’ or ‘heavy metals’), rather than treating each formulation as a blank slate (and an impmossible regulatory burden).
Hippocrates had it right: ‘First, do no harm.’

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