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EPA Releases Draft Guidance on Plant Biostimulants – Seeks Comments

Last week, EPA released another in a series of documents that will ultimately conclude with guidance on plant regulator substances including the many biostimulant products on the market.  

“Plant biostimulants are increasingly being used by farmers to increase agriculture productivity,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Alexandra Dapolito Dunn. “When finalized, our Plant Biostimulants Guidance will provide sought-after certainty and transparency for this growing area of the economy.” 

These biostimulants occupy the area between plant nutrients (fertilizers) and plant protectants (pesticides), some of which are regulated under FIFRA, some not. Considerable confusion exists in this murky area as to what constitutes a pesticide, and therefore must be registered by the EPA, and what does not.  

For instance, if a manufacturer sells a product that makes pesticidal claims (e.g. “Kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria…”), the substance has no other significant commercial use other than use as a pesticidal substance or the substance is sold with the knowledge that it will be used as a pesticide, it must be registered by the EPA as a pesticide.  

Examples of products that are not considered pesticides include plant nutrients (fertilizers), inoculants, soil amendments and vitamin-hormone products. Confusion arises when individual products are intended for use as a plant nutrient but have pesticidal properties.  

The guidance document states “In recognition of the growing categories of products generally known as plant biostimulants, this document is intended to provide guidance on identifying products and product claims that are considered to be plant regulator products and plant regulator claims by the Agency, thereby subjecting the products to regulation as pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Examples are provided of both claims that are considered plant regulator claims and claims that are not considered plant regulator claims. Examples also are included of specific active ingredients having modes of action consistent with the FIFRA definition of a plant growth regulator, and therefore subject to FIFRA registration.” 

“EPA is taking this step since there has been some confusion among industry and States as to how the emerging product area, called plant biostimulants, does or does not trigger FIFRA’s plant regulator requirements. Although FIFRA does not define the term plant biostimulants, some products being sold as plant biostimulants may trigger regulation under FIFRA as plant regulators. Other plant biostimulant products will not involve EPA oversight as pesticides since they are excluded from the plant regulator definition under FIFRA section 2(v), or do not fit within the specific FIFRA definition of how a plant regulator functions.”

The public comment period will be open for 30 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2018-0258 at www.regulations.gov. EPA anticipates finalizing this guidance in January 2021.  READ MORE

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