Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

EPA bans pesticide chlorpyrifos for use on food crops

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced it will stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all edible crops.

A federal appeals court ruled in April that the agency had to either ban chlorpyrifos — which has been linked to neurological damage, particularly in children and farmworkers — or prove that it was safe. The EPA determined that it had no “reasonable certainty” that the pesticide would cause no harm to human health.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a press statement that banning chlorpyrifos was an “overdue step.”

“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,” Regan said. “After the delays and denials of the prior administration, EPA will follow the science and put health and safety first.”

The Trump administration twice decided not to ban chlorpyrifos in 2017 and 2019.

The EPA’s decision to ban the pesticide now comes after several states, including Oregon, started imposing their own restrictions on its use.

Republican walkouts in the Oregon Legislature sank two previous attempts to ban chlorpyrifos, but the Oregon Department of Agriculture announced last year that it would almost entirely phase out use of the pesticide by 2023. The EPA’s decision bypasses that plan.

The Oregon Farm Bureau, which lobbies for the state’s agriculture industry, said in a written statement that Oregon farmers have lost an “important tool.”

“With this EPA decision, Oregon farm families, who are already facing the hardships of extreme drought and heat on their crops, will have to take stock of what the loss of this well-regulated tool will mean for them,” the statement reads. “We anticipate the dedication of resources nationally to help farmers identify economically viable alternatives to protect their crops from devastating losses due to pests.”

The bureau says it’s advocated for state funding to study and identify alternatives to chlorpyrifos to no avail. The EPA said in its announcement that it will review replacements and alternatives to the pesticide.

Chlorpyrifos is used in Oregon mostly on leafy greens, alfalfa and Christmas trees. Meanwhile, Washington has used it in tree fruit orchards.

The EPA’s decision does not ban the use of chlorpyrifos on non-food crops, but the agency will rule on its use in that sector in the coming months.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Bradley W. Parks