The Environmental Protection Agency has denied a petition from two environmental groups that sought to remove the food residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos, the active ingredient in Lorsban and other widely-used insecticides.
The environmental groups – the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North America – had argued for the revocation of the tolerances based on nonreplicated epidemiological studies.
“This is a welcome decision grounded in evidence and science,” said Sheryl Kunickis, director of the Office of Pest Management Policy at USDA. “It means this important pest management tool will remain available to growers, helping to ensure an abundant and affordable food supply.”
“Farmers count on the continual advancement of crop protection technology to stay ahead of crop threats, and that advancement hinges on a predictable regulatory process,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America, the organization representing pesticide manufacturers and distributors.
“EPA heeded the concerns laid out by stakeholders, state regulators, trading partners and even USDA in the public record. Today’s decision reinforces the strength, objectivity and consistency of EPA’s pesticide registration and registration-review process.”
Columbia University studies
Vroom said claims in the petition were based on information from epidemiological studies conducted by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health that reported outcomes that could not be replicated and are soundly contradicted by findings from other studies.
“EPA’s decision to deny the chlorpyrifos petition is a hopeful indication that EPA is recommitting to adherence to established requirements and guidelines relating to transparency, public process and scientific integrity,” CLA said in a statement following the denial of the petition. “The crop protection industry is encouraged by EPA’s detailed rationale set forth in the denial order and supports EPA’s commitment to a thorough registration-review of chlorpyrifos.”
EPA officials said the public record “lays out serious scientific concerns and substantive process gaps in the (environmental groups) proposal. Reliable data, overwhelming in both quantity and quality, contradicts the reliance on – and misapplication of – studies to establish the end points and conclusions used to rationalize the proposal.”
USDA and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture disagreed with the methodology used by EPA and the nongovernmental organizations, Vroom said. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel on the chlorpyrifos review also expressed concerns with regard to EPA’s previous reliance on certain data used to support its proposal to ban the pesticide.
Best science available
“Modern farming depends on using the best science available,” said Janet E. Collins, executive vice president of science and regulatory affairs at CLA. “The entire agricultural community, scientists included, are working tirelessly to refine growing methods, use resources more efficiently and better protect species and the environment.
“We applaud EPA for looking at all available data and denying the NGO petition on chlorpyrifos. We hope that this action signals a return to the Agency’s willingness to engage with farmers and industry to objectively regulate American agriculture to keep it productive and sustainable for generations to come.”
The decision was also applauded by the National Corn Growers Association and other farm organizations.
“We are pleased with the EPA's decision today to deny a petition against chlorpyrifos and return to the standard pesticides review process as called for under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA),” said NCGA President Wesley Spurlock.
“The overwhelming scientific consensus is that chlorpyrifos is safe for use by farmers, and we are confident that the pesticide review process will reaffirm this.”
In 2015, EPA proposed banning chlorpyrifos, but the decision had not been finalized. Last August, a federal court ordered the EPA to decide by Friday (March 31) whether to ban the pesticide. NCGA and its farmer-members have submitted numerous comments to the EPA about this issue.
“NCGA supports transparent, science-based oversight of pesticides. We are encouraged by the EPA's decision because it signals a return to these standards and procedures,” said Spurlock.
“Effective pest management requires access to a variety of treatments, including chlorpyrifos. If we become too reliant on a single tool, it can start to lose its effectiveness, and that's how resistance develops. Farmers need access to many crop protection tools to ensure all tools can remain effective.”
To view the environmental groups’ petition, visit https://www.epa.gov/pesticides.