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Daily News Blog

07
May

New York Bans Chlorpyrifos, Pressuring EPA to Impose Country-Wide Protections Against Brain-Damaging Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, May, 7, 2019) Last week, the New York State legislature voted to phase out and eventually ban the use of the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos. The vote, 44-18 in the state Senate and 94-50 in the Assembly, is still awaiting the Governor’s signature, who is expected to sign the measure. As evidence of harm continues to accumulate, scientists have called for a ban, and a legal case works its way through the courts, pressure is mounting on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to once and for all remove this harmful pesticide from use.

New York’s legislation sets implementation dates that leapfrog a similar law banning chlorpyrifos that passed in Hawai’i last year. Although Hawai’i’s law takes effect beginning in July of this year, the state may provide temporary use permits for the chemical until December 2022. New York also phases in restrictions, first prohibiting aerial applications beginning January 2020, then prohibiting all use except on apple trees starting January 2021. The chemical will be completely banned for use in New York in December 2021.

Chlorpyrifos is a highly toxic insecticide that has been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes, particularly for pregnant mothers and their children, who are at risk of learning disabilities, including lowered IQ, developmental delay, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Recent evidence shows that the original data used to register this chemical was fundamentally flawed in its assessment of health risks.

Other states are also considering their own chlorpyrifos bans. In Maryland, a chlorpyrifos bill that passed in the state House of Delegates was not taken up for a vote in the Senate. In California, a bill passed its first committee hearing in early April. Bills are also being considered in Oregon and Connecticut.

Overlaying this state level activity is legislation at the federal level. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) has introduced S 3764, The Prohibit Chlorpyrifos Poisoning Students Act, to ban chlorpyrifos and implement pesticide buffer zones around schools. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has, since 2017, introduced S921, the Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act of 2019, to prohibit all uses of chlorpyrifos on food. And Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) has introduced the S1187, Safe School Meals for Kids Act, which would eliminate chlorpyrifos on food served in school cafeterias. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) introduced HR 230, the Ban Toxic Pesticides Act, which eliminates chlorpyrifos from commerce.

Although EPA recommended a ban on food uses of chlorpyrifos in 2016, under the Trump Administration, the agency has taken steps to reverse the decision. This long court battle appears to be at another inflection point, as the US 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals on April 19, 2019 gave EPA 90 days to either justify use of the chemical or prohibit its use in agriculture.

While focus on chlorpyrifos is sorely needed, and will do much to eliminate hazards to pregnant mothers, children, and farmworkers, there is a need to ensure that the pesticide products that present similar risks are not used as replacements. A good start would be to follow the recommendation of renowned scientists and ban all organophosphate insecticides, which have a similar mode of action to chlorpyrifos. But even that step leaves on the market insecticides like synthetic pyrethroids, which are also hazardous to children, the bee-toxic neonicotinoids, frog killing fungicides, and carcinogenic herbicides like glyphosate and 2,4-D.

What is needed, in the long-term, is a wholesale transition of U.S. agriculture to organic practices. Many balk at the suggestion, but study after study has found this solution to be worth the investment – for local economies,  human health, in the battle against the climate crisis, and for a sustainable future.

The pesticide industry has convinced many that it would be impossible to “feed the world” with organic agriculture. However, as UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, PhD, said in 2017, “It is a myth. Using more pesticides has nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”

Since Rachel Carson stunned the world and ignited the modern environmental movement with Silent Spring, pesticide regulation has been stuck in a whack-a-mole approach that targets only the most publicly visible, toxic, and researched chemicals for restrictions. By transitioning to organic, not only in food production, but also in the management of pests in lawns and landscapes, and other pest control practices, we can eliminate the broad range of chemicals linked to diseases that are all too common in today’s world, and truly protect public health, wildlife, and the environment.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: EarthJustice Press Release

 

 

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  • Archives

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