On December 5 and 6, the Committee of Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (ScoPAFF) of the European Commission will discuss whether to ban chlorpyrifos and methyl chlorpyrifos. The majority of the numerous scientists consulted and several studies submitted over the last two years to the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) argue that this pesticide has a negative impact on the development of the brain and the nervous system, causing in some cases autism, attention deficit disorder (with or without hyperactivity), obesity or the loss of IQ points. Chlorpyrifos also remains persistently in aquatic environments.
For this reason, in August, the EFSA published a double communiqué concluding that the pesticides chlorpyrifos and methyl chlorpyrifos do not meet “the applicable criteria to protect human health established in European Union legislation” and recommended that their authorization not be renewed anymore beyond January 31, 2020, date on which their license expires. Its use is already banned in eight EU member states, including Germany, Ireland, Finland and Sweden. In France, its use is only allowed in spinach. In Spain, chlorpyrifos is the most used pesticide, especially in citrus cultivation.
Given this scenario, the manufacturers of chlorpyrifos have been taking action in recent weeks. Several documents submitted to the Commission and obtained by Le Monde show that the industry is exercising tenacious lobbying to prevent the chemical from being removed from European fields. The leader of the initiative is Corteva Agrisciences, a multinational created last June from the merger between Dow, inventor of the pesticide, and DuPont.
However, despite the understandable pressure from the industry, sources from the Commission confirmed last June that chlorpyrifos would be banned in 2020. The drafts formalizing the veto of these pesticides only need the signature of the new Commissioner of Health and Food Safety, the Cypriot Stella Kyriakides.
The most common pesticide in Spain
According to El Confidencial's analysis of the databases of the Ministry of Health, Consumption and Social Welfare, chlorpyrifos was the most common pesticide in the samples of agricultural products analyzed between 2015 and 2017. Also, the pesticide appears in 400 out of the 4,677 tests, which is 8.5% of the total. It is usually present in oranges, mandarins and bananas, but it is used in almost 100 agricultural products in Spain.