OMAHA (DTN) — The EPA will not ban the insecticide chlorpyrifos, the agency ruled on Thursday, in response to a court order handed down in April.
An EPA spokesperson, however, told DTN on Friday the agency will expedite an ongoing review of chlorpyrifos in response to public concerns raised. The agency has until 2022 to complete its review.
The EPA had until July 18 to address objections to its 2007 decision rejecting a petition asking for a ban. The deadline was set as part of a court order issued on April 19, 2019, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.
Chlorpyrifos is the main ingredient in Corteva Agriscience’s Lorsban insecticide, which targets soybean aphids, spider mites and corn rootworm.
The EPA has consistently maintained available science supports the human safety of chlorpyrifos, while environmental groups continue to say it is unsafe for humans.
An EPA spokesperson told DTN the agency may at some point place new restrictions on chlorpyrifos.
“In response to requests from the public, EPA is expediting the agency’s review of chlorpyrifos, which should be completed well before the 2022 statutory deadline,” the spokesperson said.
“Registration review is a comprehensive, scientific and transparent process that will further evaluate the potential effects of chlorpyrifos. EPA has also been engaged in discussions with the chlorpyrifos registrants that could result in further use limitations, affecting the outcome of EPA’s assessment.”
EPA has “responded to some of the claims in recent years,” the spokesperson said, while assessing available chlorpyrifos data, conducting risk assessments and consulting an EPA scientific advisory panel on many claims raised.
Corteva Agriscience said in a statement to DTN the company supports the ongoing review.
“Completion of registration review will provide needed certainty to growers who rely on chlorpyrifos and needed reassurance for the public that labelled uses will not pose unacceptable risk to public health or the environment,” Corteva said.
“It is common for the federally-mandated registration review process to result in impactful label changes, which could include elimination of select product uses. We are committed to working with the agency as it seeks to make an accurate assessment, and if necessary, reduce potential exposures, while also ensuring that growers for whom chlorpyrifos is a critical tool can continue to use the product safely,” Corteva added.
Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, said EPA’s latest decision doesn’t take into account the chemical’s threat to children.
“With this unconscionable decision, the Trump administration has betrayed America’s children, using all the means at its disposal to ensure that kids will continue to suffer from entirely avoidable learning disabilities caused by this neurotoxic chemical,” he said in a news release.
The legal pursuit aimed at chlorpyrifos began in 2007 when the Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned EPA to cancel the insecticide’s registrations.
The EPA denied the petition and said at the time that farmers need chlorpyrifos, and the agency uses “sound science” when making decisions.
The agency’s rejection of the 2007 petition was a surprising reversal from the stance of the EPA under the Obama administration, which had indicated as recently as fall 2016 that it was prepared to issue a full ban on the pesticide.
The EPA’s latest order came about after a series of court actions.
On Aug. 9, 2018, a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit ordered EPA to cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations in 60 days. The court ruled the agency was not justified in maintaining the insecticide’s registration “in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children.” Chlorpyrifos’ registration was set to end on Oct. 9, 2018.
The EPA asked for an “en banc” hearing before all non-recused judges in the Ninth Circuit. En banc hearings are reserved for cases that are particularly complex. A hearing was then held on March 26, 2019.
The agency indicated during oral arguments that it could have a decision within 90 days on objections filed in 2017. That deadline was July 18, as part of the court’s April 19 order.