The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reconfirmed the safety of the pesticide chlorpyrifos as it denied a petition to once again ban the pesticide. The announcement is the latest development in response to a lawsuit pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a coalition of labor and health organizations that are being represented by Earthjustice.
Last summer, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered EPA to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos. The Trump Administration challenged the decision, the case was reheard by the full court and in April, the Ninth Circuit ordered EPA to decide by July 18, 2019, if it would ban chlorpyrifos.
In 2015, EPA scientists under the Obama Administration moved forward with a proposed ban. In 2017, in one of the agency's first actions under the Trump Administration, EPA reversed course on the ban.
Following the reversal, EPA said the October 2015 proposal largely relied on certain epidemiological study outcomes -- with novel and uncertain applications -- to reach its conclusions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture disagreed with the methodology used by the previous Administration. Similarly, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture also objected to EPA’s methodology. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel also expressed concerns with regard to EPA’s previous reliance on certain data it had used to support its proposal to ban the pesticide.
Agricultural Retailers Assn. (ARA) president and chief executive officer Daren Coppock said the organization is pleased to see EPA render a science-based decision on chlorpyrifos.
"Chlorpyrifos is a very important tool for controlling insects, resulting in producing healthy and attractive produce for consumers. Our members use and apply this product safely and effectively. Despite the claims of activists, EPA did not propose a ban in 2016; in fact, EPA's own Science Advisory Board questioned the scientific legitimacy of the approach that led to a preliminary conclusion, and for that reason it was never finalized. Thousands of studies support responsible use of this product and vouch for its safety when used according to label directions, and EPA's periodic registration reviews ensure that this product and others will regularly be reviewed with the best-available science," Coppock said.
NRDC said it intends to continue fighting to protect families by pushing for a ban on chlorpyrifos and all other dangerous chemicals in its class, known as organophosphates.
States have also moved forward in taking their own action. In 2018, Hawaii became the first state to ban chlorpyrifos. In April, the New York legislature passed a bill banning chlorpyrifos, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to sign the legislation into law. In May, California announced a ban and is moving forward with a plan that includes $5.7 million to support farmers to transition to safer alternatives.
“While the federal government refuses to act, we urge states to step in, ban chlorpyrifos and demonstrate that they will safeguard public health and the environment,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, pesticides and pollinators program manager for Friends of the Earth. “We call on Gov. Cuomo to sign the chlorpyrifos ban bill sitting on his desk...”