(Nov. 19) After months of inaction on a controversial proposal calling for a broad no-drift policy for pesticide applications, the Environmental Protection Agency has moved to establish a defacto no-drift policy by revising language on individual pesticide labels, industry sources said in mid-November.

Strict enforcement of a no-drift policy could put fruit growers out of business all over the country, said John Rice, sales manager for Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa.

“The truth of the matter is that if we couldn’t spray our trees, we would go out of business immediately,” he said.

Nancy Foster, president of the U.S. Apple Association, Vienna, Va., said the association learned this summer that the EPA has requested manufacturers of azinphos-methyl (trade name Guthion) and phosmet (trade name Imidian) to add language to their products’ labels that would prohibit their use if any spray drift results outside the targeted application site. Industry sources have indicated Guthion, an organophosphate pesticide, is used on perhaps 80% of the U.S. apple crop.
The EPA last year proposed a no-drift policy to mitigate potential public health risks, but heavy agricultural opposition to the proposed rule was noted during twice-extended comment periods. EPA’s labelling directive appears to be the end run, Foster noted.

“They are trying to force language in the label,” she said. “They were pushed back on the spray drift policy, and now they have tried to do it on a case-by-case basis.”