Latest Chlorpyrifos Court Drama Has Farm Industry in the Middle
It remains to be seen whether the federal government will appeal a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which last week has ordered the EPA to remove chlorpyrifos from sale in the U.S. within 60 days. A coalition of farmworkers and environmental groups sued last year after then-EPA Chief Scott Pruitt reversed an Obama-era effort to ban chlorpyrifos, which is widely sprayed on citrus, apples, and other crops. The attorneys general for several states joined the case against EPA, including California, New York, and Massachusetts.
According to a report by The Associated Press, in a split decision, the court said that Pruitt, a Republican forced to resign earlier this summer amid ethics scandals, violated federal law by ignoring the conclusions of agency scientists that chlorpyrifos causes brain damage in children.
“The panel held that there was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children,” Judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote in the court’s opinion.
Michael Abboud, spokesman for acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, told the AP the agency was reviewing the decision, but it had been unable to “fully evaluate the pesticide using the best available, transparent science.”
Corteva, the maker of the chemical, issued the following statement: “Chlorpyrifos is a critical pest management tool used by growers around the world to manage a large number of pests, and regulatory bodies in 79 countries have looked at the science, carefully evaluated the product and its significant benefits, and continued to approve its use. We note that this was a split decision of the panel and we agree with the dissenting judge’s opinion. We would hope and expect that the government will consider all of its appellate options to challenge the majority’s decision. We will continue to support the growers who need this important product.”
The CEO of CropLife America (CLA), Jay Vroom, released a statement saying they’re disappointed in the decision. “We hope that after review of the decision EPA will consider all avenues of appeal,” he said. “We continue to support growers and to work with them to ensure they have the tools needed to continue producing safe and affordable food.”
Chlorpyrifos, commonly known as Lorsban among other trade names, is widely used in citrus. Joel Nelsen, President of California Citrus Mutual, said the material is so effective against Asian citrus psyllid, growers alternate crop protection tools so that the pest does not build up resistance to the one chemical. It also is used in granular form to kill ants because the ants threaten beneficial insects consuming the eggs of the pest, which spreads an incurable disease, citrus greening.
Growers also use it as a scale treatment on their trees, Nelsen noted. If not treated, Scale destroys trees and is considered a phytosanitary pest for many foreign countries.
As for his opinion of the decision, Nelsen issued the following statement: “It is unfortunate that men in robes demanding and expecting respect for decisions concerning the law have now interjected themselves into the government process and science. They ignored the flip flops in the previous administration on this subject area yet when the EPA Administrator chooses to get the process back on track, after EPA’s Science Advisory Panel disagreed with EPA changes previously; they choose to cherry pick and render a decision. It is preliminary in nature if the registrant chooses to appeal to the full court which we are seeking affirmation that this will happen.”