EPA mulls labeling biological stimulants as pesticides

Enviornmental Protection Agency logoThe Environmental Protection Agency has published a draft guidance that examines plant regulator label claims, including biostimulant claims, and whether at least some of these products should be labeled as pesticides.

A relatively new but growing category of products, plant biostimulants contain naturally occurring substances and microbes used to stimulate plant growth, enhance plant pest resistance and reduce abiotic stress.

Although the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act contains definitions for plant growth regulators, defoliants, dessicants and nitrogen stabilizers, it does not have any for plant biostimulants. As a result, these products escape federal regulation.

The European Union is further along in the process and is currently considering this draft definition: “Proposed European Commission Definition2: “Plant biostimulant” means a product stimulating plant nutrition processes independently of the product’s nutrient content with the sole aim of improving one or more of the following characteristics of the plant: (a) nutrient use efficiency; (b) tolerance to abiotic stress; and (c) crop quality traits.”

FIFRA also defines plant growth regulators and notes which substances are excluded. Based on this definition, many plant biostimulants do not fall under the definition and are excluded or exempt from regulation.

But some do based on label claims, and the EPA wants to ensure they are correctly identified and labeled.

Among claims that would fall under the plant growth regulator definition are:
• Enhances/promotes/stimulates plant growth and development.
• Enhance/inhibit development.
• Promote stem elongation.

The draft guidance also contains a list of ingredients, such as cytokinins, harpin proteins, jasmonics and seaweed extracts, that would trigger regulation under FIFRA regardless of label claims.

The document, published in the Federal Register earlier this year, also provides examples of claims considered plant regulator claims and those not considered plant regulator claims.

The EPA has extended the original comment deadline to July 28. View the complete document on the Federal Register.