August 24, 2021

Chlorpyrifos use on food crops banned by EPA

The EPA announced it will stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food to better protect human health, particularly that of children and farmworkers.

In a final rule released Aug. 18, EPA is revoking all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos, which establish an amount of a pesticide 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.

“The 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,” administrator Michael S. Regan. said in a news release “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.

The steps the agency is taking respond 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.

Under the previous Administration, EPA denied the petition in 2017 and denied the subsequent objections in 2019. These denials were challenged in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 by a coalition of farmworker, health, environmental, and other groups.  In April 2021, the Court found that “…EPA had abdicated its statutory duty under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act…” to “conclude, to the statutorily required standard of reasonable certainty, that the present tolerances caused no harm.” In its decision, the Court ordered EPA to grant the petition, issue a final rule in which the agency either modifies the chlorpyrifos tolerances with a supporting safety determination or revokes the tolerances, and modify or cancel food-use registrations of chlorpyrifos.

EPA has determined that the current aggregate exposures from use of chlorpyrifos do not meet the legally required safety standard that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from such exposures. A number of other countries, including the European Union and Canada, and some states including California, Hawaii, New York, Maryland and Oregon have taken similar action to restrict the use of this pesticide on food.

While farmers have historically relied on chlorpyrifos, its use has been in decline due to restrictions at the state level and reduced production. Additionally, some alternatives have been registered in recent years for most crops. There are also other chemistries and insect growth regulators available for certain target pests. EPA is committed to reviewing replacements and alternatives to chlorpyrifos.

The U.S. has a safe and abundant food supply, and children and others should continue to eat a variety of foods, as recommended by the federal government and nutritional experts. Washing and scrubbing fresh fruits and vegetables will help remove traces of bacteria, chemicals and dirt from the surface. Very small amounts of pesticides that may remain in or on fruits, vegetables, grains, and other foods decrease considerably as crops are harvested, transported, exposed to light, washed, prepared and cooked.

This action will also be incorporated into the ongoing registration review for chlorpyrifos. EPA is continuing to review the comments submitted on the chlorpyrifos proposed interim decisiondraft revised human health risk assessment, and draft ecological risk assessment. These documents are available in the chlorpyrifos registration review docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850 at www.regulations.gov.

After considering public comments, the agency will proceed with registration review for the remaining non-food uses of chlorpyrifos by issuing the interim decision, which may consider additional measures to reduce human health and ecological risks. More information on the registration review process is available here.

More information about chlorpyrifos and the final tolerance rule is available on EPA’s website

American Farm Bureau reacts

Farm Bureau criticized the decision to revoke all tolerances, saying the EPA should rely on sound science in its decision making.

“Farmers and ranchers care deeply about the quality of our crops — nothing is more important than producing safe, nutritious food,” American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said. “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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