Last Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will not ban the use of chlorpyrifos, rejecting a request from environmental groups to prohibit the pesticide.
The action came in response to an appellate court decision earlier this year ordering the agency to respond to a petition from environmental groups that sought to ban the widely used pesticide. Research has shown that chlorpyrifos, which is commonly applied on fruit and vegetable crops, has the potential to damage brain development in children. Today was the final day EPA could respond under the court’s timeline.
The EPA, in a notice that will be posted to the Federal Register, said further examination of epidemiological studies of health risks associated with chlorpyrifos is necessary before the agency can make a final decision on its safety.
The agency said “there is good reason” to continue allowing farmers to use chlorpyrifos, “given the importance of this matter and the fact that critical questions remained regarding the significance of the data addressing neurodevelopmental effects.”
Pruitt declared EPA needed to "provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos" and said the agency would conduct more research before determining whether the pesticide should be removed from the market.
Environmentalists then sued the agency. In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered EPA to act within three months on the petition to ban chlorpyrifos, which was developed by Corteva.
Environmental groups criticise EPA decision
“By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump’s EPA is breaking the law and neglecting the overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide harms children’s brains,” said Patti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice.
Erik Olson, senior director for health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement that government “leaders have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable residents — our kids — but this administration chooses instead to protect its deep-pocketed allies in the chemical industry. Until EPA gets this stuff out of our fields and off our food, this fight is not over.”
An EPA spokesperson said in a statement provided to POLITICO that the issues environmental groups raised will be addressed through the agency’s review of chlorpyrifos' registration, a process that will be expedited “in response to requests from the public.” That review “should be completed well before the 2022 statutory deadline.”