Trump Administration Refuses to Ban Pesticide Used on Crops

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was scheduled to announced on March 31 the equivalent of a total ban on the pesticide because a court and agency scientists had found it unsafe.

"In response to the petition, EPA initiated the registration review of chlorpyrifos", says Phil Jost, Dow AgroSciences U.S. insecticides marketing leader.

"Based on the harm that this pesticide causes, the EPA can not, consistent with the law, allow it in our food", says Patti Goldman, an attorney with the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice.

In October 2015, under the previous administration, EPA proposed to revoke all food residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos, an active ingredient in insecticides.

Between 2009 and 2012, the EPA chose not to defend itself in over 60 lawsuits from special interest groups, resulting in settlement agreements and more than 100 new EPA regulations.

Scott Pruitt, has decided against banning the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on fruits and vegetables, despite research data in recent years has linked the pesticide to nervous system and brain problems, including lowered brain function in some children exposed to it before birth.

That's a pretty interesting conclusion given that the EPA hasn't developed any new scientific evidence since agency scientists recommended the ban past year. Indeed, today's about-face move was chock full of "alternative facts" to defend this reversal. But, the EPA admits that it hasn't completed its assessment of the pesticide's effects on drinking water and that "certain science issues" regarding chlorpyrifos are "unresolved".

Is chlorpyrifos risky? The data seems to at least suggest it is. That order had been prompted by petitions from environmental groups, including Earthjustice, to ban chlorpyrifos.

EPA inspected Grow Depot's supply store in 2015 and alleged that it sold unregistered pesticides by repackaging the pesticides for sale to consumers in containers without labels. In its appeal, Croplife argued that the EPA should disregard the findings of epidemiological studies documenting that the pesticide impaired American children's IQs and brain development.

About 5 million to 10 million pounds of chlorpyrifos, manufactured by DowAgroSciences, are used annually on crops nationwide. "Democrats, environmentalists and health advocates say the HONEST Act is meant to handcuff the EPA", The Hill reported.

More than a decade ago, the EPA banned the spraying of chlorpyrifos indoors to get rid of household bugs. Citing "a lot of scientific uncertainty about the risks of chlorpyrifos", the agency pushed off a final decision on the chemical's safety indefinitely.

This decision by EPA under the Trump Administration to deny the petition is not surprising, given the rhetoric of reducing regulatory burdens and the need to stop regulatory "overreach" by agencies like EPA which has been accused of making politically driven decisions.

  • Carolyn Briggs