IS EPA’S DECISION ON CHLORPYRIFOS AN INDICATOR OF CHANGE?

Tricia Braid

Mar, 31, 2017  |  Today's News

IL Corn is joining other farm organizations in sending a shout-out to USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and the Trump Administration for the Agency’s decision earlier this week to deny a petition related to the crop protection tool chlorpyrifos. As you know, chlorpyrifos is an important part of farmers’ integrated pest management programs, as it provides a targeted approach to pests. It has been in use for decades and is most commonly recognized under the brand-name Lorsban. Regarding his Agency’s decision, Administrator Pruitt said in a statement, "By reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making – rather than predetermined results.”

In 2015, the Obama administration proposed banning chlorpyrifos, but the decision had not been finalized. Last August, a federal court ordered the EPA to decide by March 31 whether to ban the pesticide. Corn farmers have joined many others in submitting comments to the EPA about this issue.

“We’ve commented to EPA many times, on many issues, that we support their decisions being made on sound science in a transparent manner,” said Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan. “We hope that this decision by the Agency to deny the petition signals a change in approach under Administrator Pruitt’s leadership.”

Extreme environmental groups are decrying the decision and have indicated their plans to challenge EPA’s decision in the courts.

EPA’s press release on the decision reads as follows.

“We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Pruitt. “By reversing the previous Administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making – rather than predetermined results.”

“This is a welcome decision grounded in evidence and science,” said Sheryl Kunickis, director of the Office of Pest Management Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). “It means that this important pest management tool will remain available to growers, helping to ensure an abundant and affordable food supply for this nation and the world.  This frees American farmers from significant trade disruptions that could have been caused by an unnecessary, unilateral revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances in the United States. It is also great news for consumers, who will continue to have access to a full range of both domestic and imported fruits and vegetables. We thank our colleagues at EPA for their hard work.”

In October 2015, under the previous Administration, EPA proposed to revoke all food residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos, an active ingredient in insecticides.  This proposal was issued in response to a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North America. The October 2015 proposal largely relied on certain epidemiological study outcomes, whose application is novel and uncertain, to reach its conclusions.

The public record lays out serious scientific concerns and substantive process gaps in the 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.

The USDA disagrees with the methodology used by the previous Administration. Similarly, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture also objected to EPA’s methodology. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) also expressed concerns with regard to EPA’s previous reliance on certain data the Agency had used to support its proposal to ban the pesticide.

The FIFRA SAP is a federal advisory committee operating in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act and established under the provisions of FIFRA, as amended by the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996.  It provides scientific advice, information and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on pesticides and pesticide-related issues regarding the impact of regulatory decisions on health and the environment.