By Peak Johnson
U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed an order that denied a petition attempting to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, commonly used in U.S. agriculture.
Food Safety News reported that chlorpyrifos was first for use to control insects and leafage Dow Chemical in 1965. “It was used extensively on residential lawns and golf course turf as a structural termite control agent. Banned from home use for about 15 years, it is still allowed for agriculture uses so long as label instructions are followed.”
According to the EPA, “Chlorpyrifos can cause cholinesterase inhibition in humans at high enough doses; that is, it can overstimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at very high exposures (e.g., accidents or major spills), respiratory paralysis and death.”
The largest agricultural market for chlorpyrifos is corn. The pesticide “is also used on soybeans, fruit and nut trees, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, broccoli, and cauliflower, as well as other row crops.”
The petition that Pruitt decided against, “sought to revoke all pesticide tolerances, referred to as maximum residue levels in food, for chlorpyrifos and cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations,” per Food Safety News.
“We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment,” Pruitt said. “By reversing the previous Administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making — rather than predetermined results.”
The agency has already done an assessment that demonstrated the “dietary and drinking water risks for the current uses of chlorpyrifos, but opted to review the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos as part of the ongoing registration review and complete its assessment by the statutory deadline of Oct. 1, 2022.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supported Pruitt’s decision in the denial of the petition.
“This is a welcome decision grounded in evidence and science,” Sheryl Kunickis, director of the Office of Pest Management Policy at USDA, told Food Safety News. “It means that this important pest management tool will remain available to growers, helping to ensure an abundant and affordable food supply for this nation and the world.”
Image credit: "Corn, November 2005" David Kessler © 2005 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/