EPA Eyes Chlorpyrifos Ban

Agency Announces Proposed Plan to Ban Insecticide

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was ordered by a federal court to proceed with implementing a ban on the insecticide ingredient chlorpyrifos. (DTN file photo by Jim Patrico)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The EPA on Thursday took a major step toward banning pesticides with chlorpyrifos, announcing its plan to revoke all food tolerances for the main ingredient in Dow AgroScience's Lorsban.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be setting a 60-day public comment period on a proposal to revise its scientific assessment of the insecticide ingredient. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used to combat pests such as soybean aphids, spider mites and corn rootworm.

EPA said in a news release Thursday it believes chlorpyrifos residues on food crops and in water are at unsafe levels.

"The revised analyses indicate that expected residues of chlorpyrifos on food crops exceed the safety standard under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act," the agency said.

"In addition, the majority of estimated drinking water exposures from currently registered uses, including water exposures from non-food uses, continue to exceed safe levels even taking into account more refined drinking water exposures."

In a final order issued Aug. 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled against a request by EPA for an extension of time before the agency takes action on its proposed ban on chlorpyrifos. EPA has been ordered to take action by March 31, 2017.

Phil Jost, portfolio marketing leader U.S. crop protection insecticides for Dow AgroSciences, said his company is concerned the agency is not following science.

"We disagree with the chlorpyrifos NODA (notice of data availability) and with key aspects of the underlying assessment," he said in a statement.

"The assessment lacks scientific rigor, is contrary to EPA and administration policies of data access and transparency in scientific decision-making, and falls short of the FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act) requirement that decisions be based on valid, complete and reliable scientific data. However, it is important to note this NODA is not a final decision."

There is concern doing away with chlorpyrifos could at some point complicate the battle against insects, especially when growers are being encouraged to rotate chemistry to guard against possible resistance.

EPA had asked the court for a six-month extension last summer to take final action.

The Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition in 2007 to force EPA to take action. In June 2015, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling pressuring EPA to make a decision by Oct. 31, 2015, on whether or not it would establish food tolerances for the insecticide. EPA stated it did not have the data needed to do so and instead would pursue a ban.

Corn accounts for chlorpyrifos' largest agriculture market as far as total pounds used because, overall, there are more corn acres than soybean acres, according to EPA. However, in recent years, use of chlorpyrifos has expanded in soybeans and has been on the decline in corn.

According to Dow AgroScience's website, chlorpyrifos use in soybeans expanded from about 200,000 acres in 2004 to about 8 million acres in 2008. Dow estimated chlorpyrifos was applied to about 11% of soybean acres planted in 2008.

Dow estimates that since 2000, soybean aphid infestations have caused economic yield losses of up to 45% in untreated fields. Soybean aphids are now present in 20 states, including the Great Plains and into the Northeast and South, according to Dow.

USDA estimates corn rootworm leads to more than $1 billion in lost revenue each year. That includes $800 million in yield loss and about $200 million in treatment costs.

In April 2016, a contingent of 42 agriculture groups asked EPA to put the brakes on a scientific advisory panel meeting held in Washington, D.C., as part of the EPA's proposed plan.

Read more about EPA's proposal here: http://bit.ly/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley