Jul 26, 2017
Court denies motion for relief from EPA’s chlorpyrifos decision

The US. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 18 denied a petition for relief from an earlier decision by the EPA not to ban a pesticide, chlorpyrifos.

Since 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency has increased restrictions on the use of chlorpyrifos. However, the organophosphorus insecticide remains legal for a number of uses, including pest control on fruit trees, corn, soybeans, nut trees and other food crops including Brussels sprouts, cranberries, broccoli and cauliflower.

In late March this year, the EPA denied a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North America asking the EPA to revoke all pesticide tolerances (maximum residue levels in food) for chlorpyrifos, and cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations. The agency did so in order to meet a court-ordered deadline for responding to the petition.

The petitioners then filed a another legal request for relief from the EPA’s denial, arguing that the denial was inadequate because it contained “no new safety findings,” and made no “final determination” about chlorpyrifos food tolerances.

In a published order July 18, a three-judge panel wrote that the EPA had complied with a previous court-imposed deadline to respond to the petition. The panel also ruled the petitioners’ motion for further court-ordered relief was premature, and its substantive objections to the EPA’s denial must first be made through the administrative process mandated by law.

In addition to its uses on food crops, chlorpyrifos is registered for use of killing mosquitos, and roach-  and ant-killing bait traps with child-resistant packaging. It’s also used on golf courses, turf, green houses, and for treating outdoor timbers like utility poles and fence posts.

The Washington law firm of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. analyzed the decision on its Pesticide Law and Policy Blog.

“This is a significant win for industry, but is far from the end of this debate, which will continue in a number of different forums,” the firm wrote.

Earthjustice Managing Attorney Patti Goldman spoke in a statement on the Pesticide Action Network website.

“EPA scientists have said for more than two years that this pesticide is unsafe, particularly to children. Any delay in banning this toxic chemical is a tragedy for families and farmworkers,” Goldman wrote. “Based on science and the law, EPA must ban chlorpyrifos now.” U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) July 25 introduced a bill that if made law would ban chlorpyrifos.

In a written statement to Fruit Growers News, Dow Agrosciences said that the current safety standards for chlorpyrifos use are based “on five decades of experience in use, health surveillance of manufacturing workers and applicators, and more than 4,000 studies and reports examining the product in terms of health, safety and the environment.

“A full weight of evidence evaluation from thousands of studies, along with a critical examination of the studies being cited by some who have raised safety questions, shows that current uses of chlorpyrifos meet the regulatory standard of a “reasonable certainty of no harm” for humans, including children,” Dow Agrosciences said. “Authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products, when used as directed, offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety.”

Stephen Kloosterman, assistant editor


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