On August 11, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied a motion for a stay pending review filed on December 18, 2014, by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), as well as a subsequent stay motion filed on February 6, 2015, by the Center for Food Safety and other petitioners (Case Nos. 14-73353 and 14-73359, consolidated). Both motions requested that the court stay an October 15, 2014, decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to register Enlist Duo herbicide (a combination of glyphosate and 2,4,-D) for use on corn and soybeans in six Midwestern states.
NRDC and CFS, et al. (Petitioners), filed these stay motions in a case consolidating petitions for review challenging EPA’s decision to register Enlist Duo. The registrant of Enlist Duo (Dow Agrosciences) has intervened in the consolidated case. The Petitioners argue that EPA failed to consider the impacts of increased glyphosate use on monarch butterflies, and did not fully assess the potential human health effects from 2,4-D. In response, both EPA and Dow Agrosciences argue that approval of Enlist Duo will not lead to increased use of glyphosate, and that EPA fully considered all of the human health effects of 2,4-D before granting the registration.
The motions for a stay filed by the Petitioners were effectively motions for preliminary injunctive relief, an extraordinary remedy requiring that those seeking such relief show that they are likely to succeed on the merits, that there is likely to be irreparable harm, that the balance of equities tips sharply in their favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest. In denying the stay motions, the court cited Winter v. NRDC, 555 U.S. 7 (2008). In the Winter case, the Supreme Court held that irreparable injury must be likely and that a mere possibility of irreparable injury will not suffice in awarding injunctive relief. Although the court did not opine further on its rationale for denying the Petitioners’ stay motions, it may be inferred that the court determined that the Petitioners had not satisfied the rigorous prerequisites for injunctive relief.
While this decision avoids an immediate disruption in the marketing of pesticides, the potential for disruption to the registration remains until the court challenge has been resolved. As Enlist is a new product designed for use with crops genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate and 2,4,-D, any disruption now would be especially impactful to the registrant and customers of the product. Further, it could also have a chilling effect on efforts to introduce similar new or pending products if growers perceive too great a risk of uncertainty for this or similar pesticides.