No safe exposure level can be set for the pesticide chlorpyrifos, the European Food Safety Authority says in an Aug. 2 statement. The announcement suggests that the European Union is unlikely to allow chlorpyrifos use after its approval expires in January.
A peer-review panel is currently evaluating applications for chlorpyrifos renewal in the EU. Those applications were submitted by manufacturers Corteva Agriscience (formerly Dow AgroSciences), Adama Agriculture, and Sapec Agro. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used on a large number of crops worldwide.
In July, the European Commission asked EFSA to weigh in on the mammalian toxicology and human health effects of chlorpyrifos. European regulators identified two areas of concern: neurodevelopmental effects in children—effects that are supported by epidemiological studies—and potential genotoxic effects. The pesticide “does not meet the criteria required by legislation for the renewal of its approval in the European Union,” EFSA says in its statement.
Corteva Agriscience disputes that conclusion. “No active ingredient had been more thoroughly researched than chlorpyrifos,” the company says in a statement. “The EFSA conclusions do not match the conclusions of other major regulatory bodies.”
Last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced that chlorpyrifos can stay on the US market. The pesticide has been at the center of a legal fight in the US since 2007, when environmental and farmworker groups first petitioned the EPA to ban use of chlorpyrifos on food crops. The EPA agreed to the ban under the Obama administration because of concerns about health risks to children. The agency reversed that decision in March 2017, under the Trump administration.
“The EU is doing what the science demands: putting public health ahead of the narrow interests of the pesticide industry,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group, says in a statement. “Tragically for American kids and their parents, the Trump administration is kowtowing to chemical agribusiness and allowing a dangerous pesticide to be sprayed on foods children eat every day.”