EPA announces final rule to ban chlorpyrifos

The Environmental Protection Agency announced last week it will stop the use of chlorpyrifos through a final rule that revokes all “tolerances” for the pesticide, which establish an amount that is allowed on food.

In addition, the agency will issue a Notice of Intent to Cancel under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to cancel registered food uses of chlorpyrifos associated with the revoked tolerances.

“Today EPA is taking an overdue step to protect public health. Ending the use of chlorpyrifos on food will help to ensure children, farmworkers, and all people are protected from the potentially dangerous consequences of this pesticide,” said Administrator Michael Regan. “After the delays and denials of the prior administration, EPA will follow the science and put health and safety first.”

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used for a large variety of agricultural uses, including soybeans, fruit and nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops, as well as non-food uses. It has been found to inhibit an enzyme, which leads to neurotoxicity, and has also been associated with potential neurological effects in children, EPA noted.

EPA said the steps the agency announced responded to the Ninth Circuit’s order directing EPA to issue a final rule in response to the 2007 petition filed by Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council. The petition requested that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances, or the maximum allowed residue levels in food, because those tolerances were not safe, in part due to the potential for neurodevelopmental effects in children.

Several states had already banned or restricted its use, The New York Times noted.

Corteva had already announced it would stop production of chlorpyrifos, but the company’s shares still dropped 2.5%, reported Seeking Alpha, an investment site.

Bill Freese, science director at the Center for Food Safety, said, “We welcome EPA’s long overdue decision to cancel this neurotoxic insecticide.”

“Since farm workers, pregnant people, and young children are especially vulnerable to harm from exposure to chlorpyrifos, a cancellation of this dangerous product was the only choice,” Freese said.

Democratic Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware, Cory Booker of New Jersey. and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, founders and co-chairs of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, said, “We commend EPA for prioritizing the health of children and farmworkers with its rulemaking today.”

“The decision to ban the use of this pesticide on food is based on sound science, which tells us that exposure to chlorpyrifos can permanently damage the developing brains of children.

“Oftentimes those most impacted by the use of toxic pesticides come from minority and disadvantaged communities. Most Americans agree: something that compromises our children’s health and harms our workers doesn’t belong in our food or economy.”

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, in a joint statement expressed “concern” with EPA’s “departure from its scientific and regulatory review process.”

“EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs has been the world’s gold standard of scientific integrity and regulatory review standards when it comes to registering crop protection tools,” Boozman said.

“Unfortunately, EPA’s decision to remove certain tolerances for chlorpyrifos not only circumvented its own regulatory registration review process, but agency leadership also abdicated the work of their career professionals to a subset of activist judges.

“EPA’s decision not only undermines the scientifically rigorous work of the agency but also inserts a great deal of uncertainty for growers sending products into commerce in the next six months who may need to use this technology to combat significant pest stressors.”

“Yesterday’s decision tells me that the final word on what crop protection tools farmers may use stands not with science, but with the unelected and unaccountable activist judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Thompson said.

“The decision to allow the court system to overrule EPA’s rigorous, scientific pesticide registration process sets a dangerous precedent, threatens scientific integrity, and is of the utmost concern to U.S. farmers and ranchers who are already carrying the weight of fueling the nation in the wake of the global pandemic.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “Farmers and ranchers care deeply about the quality of our crops — nothing is more important than producing safe, nutritious food. So, we must be guided by the most reliable determinant of safety, which is science.”

“This administration has repeatedly made commitments to abide by science, yet the EPA decision on chlorpyrifos strays from that commitment and takes away an important tool to manage pests and insects.

“We urge EPA officials not to make determinations on pesticides outside of the regular registration review process already underway. The integrity of the registration review process and commitment to using sound science must be prioritized in a decision of such far-reaching consequences.”


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