EPA bans use of chlorpyrifos on food crops 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food crops “to better protect human health, particularly that of children and farmworkers.”

In a final rule released Aug. 18, EPA said it is revoking all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos, which establish the amount of a pesticide that is allowed on food. The agency also will issue a notice of intent to cancel registered food uses of chlorpyrifos associated with the revoked tolerance under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The final rule goes into effect 60 days from its publication in the Federal Register.

Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide used on corn, soybeans and dozens of other food crops, “has been found to inhibit an enzyme, which leads to neurotoxicity, and has also been associated with potential neurological effects in children,” EPA noted. 

“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,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan in the announcement. 

The EPA’s decision is the result of a court order requiring the agency to issue a final rule in response to the 2007 petition filed by Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Under the Trump administration, EPA denied the petition in 2017 as well as subsequent objections in 2019, leading to challenges in appeals court. In April this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit told the agency to decide by Aug. 20 whether it would ban chlorpyrifos uses in food or moderate its allowed levels of use with supporting safety determinations. 

EPA “determined that the current aggregate exposures from use of chlorpyrifos do not meet the legally required safety standard that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from such exposures,” stated the agency’s announcement. 

Meanwhile, CropLife America President and CEO Chris Novak said EPA’s decision is an “overly broad action” that will cause problems for farmers. “Decades of review by EPA career staff and independent scientific advisory panels have repeatedly supported safe uses for this product, yet this decision comes without a full scientific review or a thoughtful assessment of the beneficial uses of this product,” he said. 

EPA’s action this week effectively ends all agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos on food and feed crops. It does not immediately affect non-food uses of chlorpyrifos, which the agency said would be under review later in 2022.

Several states, including California, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, and Oregon, have already banned the use of chlorpyrifos. Corteva Agriscience halted production of the insecticide at the end of 2020.