UPDATED, Aug. 25 –– Chicago | Reuters — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday said it will ban the use on food crops of chlorpyrifos insecticide, which has been linked to health problems in children.
The decision is a victory for environmental activists who have fought to stop the use of the chemical that is applied to crops ranging from corn and soybeans to Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
“EPA is taking an overdue step to protect public health,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “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.”
Chlorpyrifos has been used as a pesticide since 1965 on farms and in non-agricultural areas such as golf courses, according to the EPA.
However, applications have declined due to state restrictions, reduced production and the development of alternative products, the agency said.
The EPA banned the use of chlorpyrifos in 2015 under President Barack Obama after the agency decided it could not be certain whether exposure to the chemical in food and water would be harmful. But President Donald Trump’s EPA reversed the decision and said there was not enough evidence to link exposure to chlorpyrifos to children’s health issues.
“EPA is finally following its own findings on this poisonous pesticide,” said Allison Johnson, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Last year, California prohibited farmers from using chlorpyrifos products and manufacturers from selling them due to health concerns.
Corteva, the world’s largest manufacturer of the chemical, in 2020 said it would stop producing chlorpyrifos because of declining sales.
Cancelled in Canada
Registered in Canada since 1969, chlorpyrifos is used to control certain cutworms in corn and potatoes, midge in wheat, and grasshoppers in cereal crops and canola.
Sold in Canada at the farm level under brand names including Corteva’s Lorsban, Adama Canada’s Pyrinex, Cheminova’s Nufos and Ipco’s Citadel, the chemical’s product labels also make note of its “acute mammalian toxicity.”
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) launched a environmental re-evaluation of chlorpyrifos in 2018, and found “risks of concern” to “beneficial arthropods, birds, mammals and all aquatic biota.”
PMRA’s re-evaluation decision in December 2020 cancelled nearly all outdoor uses of the chemical, except for use in greenhouse ornamentals; control of Japanese beetle larvae in outdoor ornamentals; elm bark beetle and mountain pine beetle control; mosquito control; and non-residential “structural” uses.
Companies holding chlorpyrifos registrations in Canada for cancelled uses can sell the product until December this year, after which retailers may sell it until December next year, and end-users may apply the product until December 2023.
Two agricultural uses were to get an extension on those deadlines: alfalfa looper control in canola and darksided and redbacked cutworm control in garlic.
Those two specific uses “were found to lack suitable alternatives,” PMRA said in its decision, and those cancellations were to be “delayed for an additional two years to allow growers to find pest management solutions.”
Health Canada also said it planned to separately update its assessment for human health concerns related to chlorpyrifos, as “new studies related to human health assessment have been generated.”
In May this year, however, PMRA said the human health assessment was “no longer needed,” after it issued a data call-in notice to registration holders for the chemical and registrants “failed to satisfy the data requirements.”
Thus, the agency said, all pest control products containing chlorpyrifos are now included in the same cancellation schedule — including for alfalfa looper control in canola and darksided and redbacked cutworm control in garlic.
The last date of use for all current chlorpyrifos products and uses in Canada is now set at Dec. 10, 2023.
— Reporting for Reuters by Tom Polansek in Chicago. Includes files from Glacier FarmMedia Network staff. Updated to include PMRA’s May decision.