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US EPA: Chlorpyrifos is here to stay

Agency denies all objections, allows use of the insecticide on food crops

by Britt Erickson
July 19, 2019


Chemical structure of chlorpyrifos.

The controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to neurodevelopmental problems in children, can remain on the US market, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced on July 18. The decision is another win for pesticide manufacturer Corteva Agriscience, formerly Dow AgroSciences, which challenged the EPA’s proposal to ban chlorpyrifos in 2015.

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used on several fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Manufacturers voluntarily halted residential use in 2000 when the EPA identified health risks.

Environmental and farmworker groups first petitioned the EPA to prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops in 2007. Eight years later, under a court order to do so, the EPA responded to the petition, proposing to revoke all uses of chlorpyrifos on food.

Under the Trump administration, the EPA reversed its decision. In March 2017, the agency announced that it was denying the 2007 petition and putting off any decision about chlorpyrifos until 2022. Environmental and farmworker groups fought back and appealed. In August 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the EPA to finalize the proposal to ban chlorpyrifos on food within 60 days. One month later, the Department of Justice intervened and the courts granted EPA a new hearing. In April 2019, the court ordered the EPA to make a decision to ban or not to ban chlorpyrifos within 90 days.

Now, the EPA says it is denying all objections to its March 2017 decision, which allows the pesticide to be used on numerous food crops. Environmental and farmworker groups are not giving up. “Farmworker Justice, one of the organizations that is a plaintiff in the litigation, condemned the EPA’s decision and plans to continue to seek justice in the courts for farmworkers and their children who are exposed to this highly toxic pesticide,” Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice, says in a statement.

Some US states have passed laws banning the use of chlorpyrifos. Hawaii was the first, followed by California and New York.

The top Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees the EPA’s budget, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), introduced legislation earlier this year to ban the use of chlorpyrifos in every US state. The Trump EPA “is doing the bidding of a handful of massive, multinational chemical corporations at the expense of the health and safety of our children and farmworkers,” Udall says in a statement. “Congress must act urgently to pass my bill to ban this toxic chemical once and for all.”


Corteva supports the EPA’s decision to keep chlorpyrifos on the US market while the agency reevaluates the health risks as part of a routine review process for pesticides. That review process has now been expedited, the company says. “We are committed to working with the Agency as it seeks to make an accurate assessment and, if necessary, reduce potential exposures, while also ensuring that growers for whom chlorpyrifos is a critical tool can continue to use the product safely,” Corteva says in a statement.


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