Chlorpyrifos Deadline Near

EPA on Track to Make Decision on Chlorpyrifos Ban

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to ban the insecticide ingredient chlorpyrifos. (DTN file photo by Jim Patrico)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled on Friday to finalize its decision to revoke all food residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos, which would effectively ban the chemical from agricultural use.

Chlorpyrifos is the main ingredient in Lorsban, Dow AgroScience's organophosphate insecticide targeting pests such as soybean aphids, spider mites and corn rootworm.

Following that release, the agency is expected to begin a review of worker risks of handling chlorpyrifos, as part of EPA's scheduled registration review of the pesticide.

Since being sworn in as EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt has begun the process of turning back regulations created during the previous administration. That includes the waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule.

As of Wednesday, however, there was no indication from EPA that it was planning to change its approach to chlorpyrifos.

EPA did not respond to DTN's multiple requests for information on the registration.

EPA'S INITIAL BAN PROPOSAL

The road to the proposed chlorpyrifos ban began when the Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition in 2007 to force EPA to take action on chlorpyrifos, based on concerns over drinking water. 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.

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

In a final order issued Aug. 12, 2016, the court ruled against the request by EPA and ordered the agency to take action by March 31, 2017.

Most recently, the EPA revised its human health risk assessment for chlorpyrifos in November 2016 to state that residues on food crops and in water are at unsafe levels.

COULD COMPLICATE THE BUG BATTLE

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

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.

PUBLIC REACTION TO THE BAN

During the public comment period that ended Jan. 17, 2017, the EPA received 652 comments. Those comments included a number of mass comment campaigns from groups such as Earthjustice, Dow AgroSciences and Pesticide Action Network North America, among others.

Among the commenters was National Corn Growers Association president Wesley Spurlock.

"Chlorpyrifos has been a key chemistry protecting crops from yield impacting insects across cropping systems," he wrote.

"While its use in corn has diminished with the introduction of Bt products, grower access remains critical for effective integrated pest management systems. With insect pressures seeing some recent surges in the past five years, EPA is assessing how to better protect the efficacy of Bt products and other chemistries through more robust mitigation of hard to control populations so maintaining grower access to multiple modes of action is necessary. NCGA does not support the revocation of the tolerances for chlorpyrifos and requests the agency address concerns transparently and based upon their historical standards."

A group of 73 environmental, health and organic farming groups, led by the Pesticide Action Network North America, asked EPA to ban the chemical.

"EPA's November 2016 updated risk assessment found that there is no safe level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water and that chlorpyrifos is unsafe to use on food, for workers, and for communities," the letter said. "These findings clearly support a total ban."

In a letter to EPA, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian counterpart to USDA, expressed concern that the ban could harm trade relations.

"Given our large bilateral trade relationship in agriculture and agri-food products, totaling nearly $47 billion in 2015, we are concerned that the EPA's revocation on all tolerances for this product may have a negative impact on trade," the letter said.

"For this reason, Canada requests the U.S. maintain existing chlorpyrifos tolerances."

For more information on the proposed ban, see the EPA webpage on it here: http://bit.ly/….

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

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(EU/ES)

Todd Neeley