A federal appeals court out of Arkansas has rejected the Environmental Protection Agency’s ban on the insecticide chlorpyrifos, which had long been the target of dubious claims related to developmental delays in children.
The ban on chlorpyrifos has been in place since before the 2022 growing season. The court sent the rule back to the EPA, and the agency has 45 days to review the ruling and can request a rehearing by the judges from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Chlorpyrifos is a chemical class of insecticides that has been in use since the ’60s, treating pests on over 80 different crops. On soybeans alone, it helps to mitigate leaf beetle, soybean aphid, caterpillars, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, and others. Farm groups have said that using chlorpyrifos has prevented up to 40 percent yield losses for soybeans in the Midwest.
But in 2021, amid pressure from environmental organizations, the EPA revoked all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos, which established a level of pesticide that is allowed on food, rather than opting to modify the tolerances.
Then in December 2022, the EPA issued a Notice of Intent to Cancel three chlorpyrifos pesticide products because they bear labeling for use on food.
Farm groups and some politicians have long supported the use and safety of chlorpyrifos, saying that eliminating the most popular conventional insecticide in the nation increases burdens on farmers already taxed by record inflation, increased input costs, and supply chain issues.
Dating back to 2006, the EPA concluded a thorough and comprehensive review of chlorpyrifos’ registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and allowed the insecticide to be used. The next year, however, the National Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network of North America petitioned the EPA to revoke the tolerance.
According to Food Safety News, the Eighth Circuit decision noted chlorpyrifos’ safety record.
“Before the EPA’s 2021 ban, agricultural use of chlorpyrifos had survived multiple safety reviews. In 2002, for example, the EPA concluded that ‘dietary exposures from eating food crops treated with chlorpyrifos [were] below the level of concern for the entire U.S. population; the same went for drinking-water levels, which were not a “concern.” … Then, a few years later, the agency reaffirmed that existing tolerances met “the [tenfold] safety standard.”