Just in time for the holidays – and the growing season – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted new registrations for pesticides to be used on hemp crops, including, for the first time, hemp used in the production of cannabidiol (CBD) products. The new approvals add hemp to the list of crops to which the 10 pesticide products, each of which already is registered for use on a variety of other crops, can be applied.

The registrations are the first issued by EPA since passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (a/k/a “the Farm Bill”), which removed hemp from classification as a controlled substance. The Farm Bill defines “hemp” as the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant with a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis. Previously, only a handful of pesticides had been approved by EPA for use on hemp to support fiber production and other industrial activities, though none had received a food use tolerance or were subject to a tolerance exemption that would enable use with crops that may be ingested.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires that a pesticide be registered by EPA for specific uses, including, in the agricultural context, for applications to crops specifically identified in the registration application. For products that may be consumed, EPA also must establish “tolerance levels” which represent permissible residue limits demonstrated to be safe (a data/science-intensive and costly process). Pesticide applications to crops not approved by EPA, or products intended for consumption that contain pesticide residues in excess of a tolerance level, are illegal.

The new approvals are particularly significant because each of the pesticides contain active ingredients for which EPA “has previously determined the residues will be safe under any reasonably foreseeable circumstances.” That is, each of the pesticides is subject to an established tolerance exemption for residues on all raw agricultural or food commodities. Accordingly, the pesticides may be used on hemp crops that support the production of CBD products intended to be consumed, topically applied or otherwise ingested. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is developing its own plans to regulate CBD as a component of food products and supplements.

The 10 pesticides include one “conventional” pesticide (active ingredient: potassium salts of fatty acids) and nine “biopesticides” (which are derived from natural materials) that contain the following active ingredients: azadirachtin, neem oil, extract of Reynoutria sachalinensi, Bacillus amyloliquifaciens strains, soybean oil, garlic oil, and capsicum oleoresin extract. The 10 pesticides are variously approved for insecticide, miticide, fungicide, and nematicide uses. More details on these registered pesticide products is available from EPA here.