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    Subject Term: "Pesticide regulation"

    4 publications with a total of 17 open recommendations
    Director: Steve D. Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of federal efforts to monitor wild, native bee populations, the Secretary of Agriculture, as a co-chair of the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, should coordinate with other Task Force agencies that have monitoring responsibilities to develop a mechanism, such as a federal monitoring plan, that would (1) establish roles and responsibilities of lead and support agencies, (2) establish shared outcomes and goals, and (3) obtain input from relevant stakeholders, such as states.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, USDA had taken relevant and positive actions but had not yet fully implemented the recommendation related to monitoring wild, native bees. In June 2017, USDA held a stakeholder listening session to gather input to prepare for the development of a monitoring plan. Prior to that, in February 2017, USDA chaired a meeting with representatives from USDA and Interior to discuss how to proceed in replying to the native bee monitoring recommendation. According to a senior USDA official, the meeting participants agreed to form a team to address the recommendation. The participants also planned future relevant activities. These included plans to (1) hold a stakeholder listening session in June 2017 to determine what will be needed to conduct a robust native bee survey, including the identification of any non-Federal entities that might be able to contribute to a native bee monitoring initiative; (2) develop a prospectus in August 2017 that will be shared with all the agencies represented on the Pollinator Health Task Force to ensure minimal duplication of effort and to capitalize on any other activities; (3) hold a December 2017 workshop of stakeholders and scientists to write a white paper on how to combine Federal resources to address the need for a native bee survey; (4) develop the white paper in February 2018 with information on the status of monitoring efforts, current and future needs for effective and comprehensive monitoring, and the status of monitoring partnerships between Federal agencies, State agencies, and nongovernmental organizations; (5) continue bi-weekly conference calls with task teams to address what can be done with current resources; and (6)complete a gaps analysis in May 2018 to determine how to allocate additional resources.
    Recommendation: To increase the accessibility and availability of information about USDA-funded research and outreach on bees, the Secretary of Agriculture should update the categories of bees in the Current Research Information System to reflect the categories of bees identified in the White House Pollinator Health Task Force's research action plan.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, the agency informed GAO that it planned to complete the recommendation by October 2017.
    Recommendation: To better ensure the effectiveness of USDA's bee habitat conservation efforts, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrators of FSA and NRCS to, within available resources, increase evaluation of the effectiveness of their efforts to restore and enhance bee habitat plantings across the nation, including identifying gaps in expertise and technical assistance funding available to field offices.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the agency had not acted on our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that EPA is reducing the risk of unreasonable harm to important pollinators, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Pesticide Programs to develop a plan for obtaining data from pesticide registrants on the effects of pesticides on nonhoney bee species, including other managed or wild, native bees.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the agency had taken actions relevant to the recommendation but had not fully developed a plan to obtain data from pesticide registrants on the effects of pesticides on non-honey bee species. According to EPA, until suitable test methods have been developed, the agency has continued to rely on honey bees as a surrogate for the broader range of bee species that include both solitary and social non-honey bees. The agency continues to track the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD's) efforts to develop suitable test methods to evaluate the effects of pesticides on non-honey bees. EPA provided comments to the OECD on the acute oral and acute contact toxicity test guidelines developed for bumble bees, which are social non-honey bee managed bees; these test methods were recently finalized by OECD as formal test guidelines. Also, EPA staff serve as members of the International Commission on Plant-Pollinator Relationship (ICP-PR), for which a non-honey bee workgroup has been developing acute and chronic toxicity test methods for other managed non-honey bees, including the solitary mason bee. EPA researchers in the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (within the Office of Research and Development) are developing methods for measuring effects of pesticides on bumble bee colonies through the use of micro-colonies, and will be participating in field studies over the next two years to determine the effectiveness of these methods in evaluating impacts to bumble bees from the use of pesticides used in horticulture. According to the agency, once sufficient data are available, EPA will be in a better position to determine the extent to which honey bees serve as reasonable surrogates for estimating the sensitivity of non-honey bees to pesticides. According to agency officials, EPA included the recent OECD acute contact and acute oral toxicity tests with bumble bees with the suite of laboratory and semi-field studies in a rulemaking effort that would codify these tests as formal data requirements for registrants. EPA had planned to solicit public comment on the proposed bumble bee testing requirements; however, the rulemaking effort has been delayed until the regulatory burden of the rule can be more thoroughly evaluated. According to agency officials, in January 2017, EPA hosted an international workshop on non-honey bees to evaluate the extent to which the primary routes of exposure for honey bees (i.e., contact and ingestion of residues in pollen/nectar) are protective and serve as suitable surrogates for evaluating exposure of non-honey bees to pesticides. Workshop participants discussed data needed to evaluate exposure for solitary and social non-honey bees. The proceedings of this workshop will be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and will inform EPA's understanding of whether additional routes of exposure need to be considered as part of EPA's risk assessment framework for pollinators. While these are positive developments, they do not constitute full implementation of the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help comply with the directive in the White House Pollinator Health Task Force's strategy, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Pesticide Programs to identify the pesticide tank mixtures that farmers and pesticide applicators most commonly use on agricultural crops to help determine whether those mixtures pose greater risks than the sum of the risks posed by the individual pesticides.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA had taken actions relevant to this recommendation but had not fully implemented it. According to EPA, during February and March 2017, the Office of Pesticide Programs continued its efforts to monitor residues in honey bee colonies providing pollination services in almond orchards. In April 2017, EPA requested that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation provide Pesticide Use Reporting data, including specific formulation and quantities applied to specific sites on specific dates during almond bloom. EPA has also reached out to the Almond Board, as well as to beekeepers and almond growers, to request information on the most common tank mixes applied during almond bloom. Although EPA has previously requested Pesticide Use Reporting data from California and the state has provided preliminary data, the information was not sufficiently detailed to extract actual formulations applied on specific dates to specific areas within the almond growing region of California. The combination of information requested from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Almond Board is expected to provide data to evaluate and identify commonly used pesticide tank mixes applied during almond pollination as a case study. According to EPA officials, data from California indicate that the use of tank mixtures in almond orchards decreased by roughly 60 percent from 2014 through 2016, suggesting that best management practices recommended by the Almond Board may be having a positive effect on almond grower practices with respect to tank mixtures. While these are positive developments, they do not yet fully implement the recommendation. It is not yet clear that EPA has used information on the identity of the most common tank mixtures to determine whether they pose greater risks than the sum of the risks posed by the individual pesticides. In addition, it is not yet clear that EPA has identified tank mixtures commonly used on crops other than almonds.
    Recommendation: To measure their contribution to the White House Pollinator Health Task Force strategy's goal to restore and enhance 7 million acres of pollinator habitat, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrators of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop an improved method, within available resources, to track conservation program acres that contribute to the goal.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, USDA had not acted on this recommendation.
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    9 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better inform users of the annual monitoring report about the frequency and scope of pesticide tolerance violations, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to disclose in the agency's annual pesticide monitoring program report which pesticides with EPA-established tolerances the agency did not test for in its pesticide monitoring program and the potential effect of not testing for those pesticides.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2015, FDA posted a report summarizing the results of its Fiscal Year 2012 Pesticide Monitoring Program. The report identified which pesticides the agency tested for in FY 2012. However, the report did not identify which pesticides with EPA-established tolerances were not tested for, nor did it discuss the potential effect of not testing for those pesticides. As of December 2016, FDA had not provided an updated status for this recommendation. It plans to provide a status update in early calendar year 2017.
    Recommendation: To gather and report reliable, nationally representative data on pesticide residue violations, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to design and implement a statistically valid sampling methodology that would enable the agency, within existing resources, to gather nationally representative pesticide residue incidence and level data for both domestically produced and imported foods, or justify statistically the use of a nonprobability method that can measure the estimation error. In designing either approach, FDA should consider the extent to which the benefits exceed the costs.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2015, FDA issued a report summarizing the results of its pesticide monitoring program for Fiscal Year 2012. This report followed by about 4 months the issuance of our report, GAO-15-38, in October 2014. The FDA report stated that the sampling methodology used in FY 2012 was not statistically based. However, in light of our recommendation that FDA design and implement a statistically valid sampling methodology, the agency could have used its February 2015 report to announce its plan to develop such a methodology for use in the future, but it did not do so. As of December 2016, FDA had not provided an updated status for this recommendation. It plans to provide a status update in early calendar year 2017.
    Recommendation: To gather and report reliable, nationally representative data on pesticide residue violations, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to report the nationally representative incidence and level data in its annual pesticide monitoring reports, including disclosing the limits of its chosen sampling methodology.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, FDA had not provided an updated status for this recommendation. It plans to provide a status update in early calendar year 2017.
    Recommendation: To evaluate and refine its targeted pesticide compliance and enforcement monitoring program, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to use the incidence and level data to assess the effectiveness of FDA's targeted pesticide compliance and enforcement monitoring program, including its use of the Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting targeting tool for imported foods, by comparing the rate of violations detected through the program to the overall rate of pesticide residue violations within the domestic and imported food supplies.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, FDA had not provided an updated status for this recommendation. It plans to provide a status update in early calendar year 2017.
    Recommendation: To evaluate and refine its targeted pesticide compliance and enforcement monitoring program, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to identify any types of domestic and imported foods that are at high risk for pesticide residue tolerance violations to improve the ability of its targeted pesticide compliance and enforcement monitoring program to consistently identify food likely to have violations.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, FDA had not provided an updated status for this recommendation. It plans to provide a status update in early calendar year 2017.
    Recommendation: To better inform the public about the frequency and scope of pesticide tolerance violations, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSIS Administrator to disclose in the agency's annual pesticide monitoring program report which pesticides with EPA-established tolerances the agency did not test for in its National Residue Program and the potential effect of not testing for those pesticides.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2015, FSIS issued its Fiscal Year 2015 Residue Sampling Plan for the National Residue Program for Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products. The sampling plan contained information on the pesticides that FSIS would include in its residue testing program. However, the sampling plan did not identify pesticides with EPA-established tolerances that FSIS did not plan to include in its testing program. In December 2015, FSIS issued its Fiscal Year 2014 Residue Sample Results for its national residue program. The agency's report on its results did not identify pesticides with EPA-established tolerances that were not included in its testing program, nor did it report on the potential effect of not testing for those pesticides. In June 2016, FSIS issued its sampling plan for Fiscal Year 2016. The sampling plan contained information on the pesticides that FSIS would include in its residue testing program. However, the sampling plan did not identify pesticides with EPA-established tolerances that FSIS did not plan to include in its testing program. The FSIS sampling results for Fiscal Year 2015 were not available as of December 2016.
    Recommendation: To better meet federal standards and best practices for statistical surveys, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the AMS Administrator to provide better documentation of the survey methods used in its Pesticide Data Program in the program's annual reports by providing more complete information on the sampling methodology the agency uses, such as how it identifies and selects states, food distribution centers, and commodities for pesticide residue testing, and include measures of sampling error for reported estimates.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Agricultural Marketing Service published its 2015 Pesticide Data Program annual report in November 2016. As with earlier reports, this report does not provide sufficient documentation of the survey methods used in the program. In particular, the report does not provide complete information on the sampling methodology the agency used, such as how it identified and selected states, food distribution centers, and commodities for pesticide residue testing. Further, it does not include measures of sampling error for reported estimates.
    Recommendation: To better meet federal standards and best practices for statistical surveys, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the AMS Administrator to provide better documentation of the survey methods used in its Pesticide Data Program in the program's annual reports by reporting on the extent to which its survey covers commodities in the U.S. food supply and any limitations associated with its survey methodology.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Agricultural Marketing Service published its 2015 Pesticide Data Program annual report in November 2016. This report has a new section titled Sampling Limitations. In that section, the agency acknowledges that the total number of distribution centers and terminal markets within the participating states is difficult to establish because existing sites may go out of business or merge and new sites may open during the course of the year. Despite this limitation, the agency concludes that the sites selected in the program are representative of all sites in these states. However, the agency has not provided sufficient documentation in the report to support the claim that its data are representative of conditions across the country for commodities in the U.S. food supply.
    Recommendation: To better meet federal standards and best practices for statistical surveys, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the AMS Administrator to provide better documentation of the survey methods used in its Pesticide Data Program in the program's annual reports by describing methods users should employ to analyze the data, including obtaining margins of error for making generalizeable estimates of pesticide residues in commodities.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Agricultural Marketing Service published its 2015 Pesticide Data Program annual report in November 2016. This report does not describe methods users should employ to analyze the data, including obtaining margins of error for making generalizeable estimates of pesticide residues in commodities.
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the OECA GLP inspection process, the EPA Administrator should assess the authority and need for a fee-based inspection system, and if such a system is warranted, establish a user fee system, seeking additional legislative authority, if necessary, to make the laboratory inspection program self-sustaining.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, EPA officials told GAO that OECA was working with OPP and its Office of General Counsel to figure out the best mechanism for potentially accomplishing this. As of July 2017, EPA had not provided any additional information on the status of this recommendation.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's management of the conditional registration process, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs to complete plans to automate data related to conditional registrations to more readily track the status of these registrations and related registrant and agency actions and identify potential problems requiring management attention.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA reported that until upgrades to OPP's database architecture are complete in the FY 18 timeframe, the agency cannot complete plans to automate data related to conditional registrations. The agency informed us that plans are currently underway to improve the functionality and accuracy of OPP databases, including the tracking of information on conditional registration. However, until this work is complete, the recommendation will remain open.