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Pesticides

EU countries vote to ban chlorpyrifos

European Commission expected not to renew pesticide’s authorization next month

by Britt E. Erickson
December 9, 2019

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The European Union is one step closer to banning use of chlorpyrifos when the pesticide’s registration expires at the end of January. Representatives from EU countries voted on Dec. 6 not to renew approval of the organophosphate insecticide because of concerns for human health, including the potential for genotoxicity and developmental neurotoxicity effects. The European Commission will likely finalize the regulation next month.

Farmers rely on chlorpyrifos to control insects on numerous crops. A variation of the chemical, chlorpyrifos-methyl, is also used on stored grains and in empty warehouses. EU member countries voted not to renew registrations for both substances.

The vote comes following the European Food Safety Authority’s announcement in August that it could not set a safe exposure level for chlorpyrifos.

“We are disappointed by the decision of the European Union not to renew the authorization of chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl,” Corteva Agriscience, which manufactures the pesticides, says in an emailed statement. “This decision denies EU growers access to yet another key tool to protect their crops.”

Environmental groups are welcoming the EU’s decision. “The ban of both forms of chlorpyrifos is a major win for the healthy development of today’s children and future generations,” Génon K. Jensen, executive director of the Health and Environment Alliance, says in a statement.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the safety of chlorpyrifos under an expedited process, but it is unclear when the agency will make a final determination. The pesticide’s registration in the US is up for renewal in 2022. In July, the EPA announced that chlorpyrifos can stay on the US market while the agency continues evaluating it.

In 2015, the EPA proposed to ban chlorpyrifos, citing neurodevelopmental health risks to children, but the Trump administration reversed that decision in 2017. Some US states are not waiting for the EPA. For example, California reached an agreement with Corteva Agriscience to end sales of chlorpyrifos in that state by Feb. 6, 2020. Agricultural workers in California cannot possess or use the chemical after Dec. 31, 2020.

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