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Daily News Blog

06
Dec

Chemical Companies Increase Pressure on European Union to Extend Allowance of Pesticides Tied to Brain Damage in Children

(Beyond Pesticides, December 6, 2019) A current ban of two pesticides — chlorpyrifos and its structurally close cousin chlorpyrifos-methyl — in nine European Union (EU) states is facing last-ditch efforts by pesticide producers to extend current EU approval, which is scheduled to expire on January 31, 2020. These compounds are notorious for their devastating impacts on neurodevelopment in fetuses and children. Beyond Pesticides has repeatedly advocated for a ban of these compounds because of the grave risks they pose.

In 2006, chlorpyrifos was approved by the EU for use for 10 years — even in the context of demonstrated evidence that chlorpyrifos causes significant developmental delays. The EU Observer notes that the EU never evaluated these impacts of exposure to chlorpyrifos compounds. More recent research has shown other neurodevelopmental deficits and anomalies: reduced IQ and working memory, attention deficit disorders, and autism spectrum disorders, among them.

In July 2019, the European Commission (EC) requested that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) publish an interim statement on the effects of chlorpyrifos on human health. In early August 2019, EFSA and experts from EU member states moved the EU closer to a ban on chlorpyrifos when they announced their conclusion that chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl do not meet criteria for renewed approval. Included in their evaluation were evidence of both the neurotoxicity and potential genotoxicity of the compounds.

Manufacturers objected, and ironically, farmers — who are at increased risk of acute exposure effects of the chemicals, which can cause respiratory paralysis and even death — joined in the grievance, invoking concern that the withdrawal of chlorpyrifos could “significantly compromise European fruit and vegetable production.” The EU Observer wryly wrote, “The letter thus seemed to ignore that the ban of chlorpyrifos in nine countries had not led to a collapse of fruit and vegetable production.”

Manufacturers, including Corteva (which was the agricultural unit of DowDuPont prior to its spin-off as a separate, public company) and Ascenza, are pressuring the EU to extend approval beyond the 2020 date.

Corteva insists that neither pesticide is genotoxic. Thomas Lyall, the regulatory and stewardship leader for Corteva, actually said that there is “no evidence of developmental neurotoxicity in animals or humans from either chlorpyrifos or chlorpyrifos-methyl.”

A primary tactic of industry pushback appears to be to delegitimize the role and claims of nonprofit health and environment advocates. In January 2019, representatives from Corteva said, “regulation should not be done on the basis of public pressure triggered by activists which do not trust the legal regulatory system but on sound evidence.” In October, industry lobbying firm EPPA charged that the EU Commission had overreacted and was being “guided by strong NGO [non-governmental organization] and media pressure.” Such arguments ignore the many studies that have demonstrated the dangers of exposure to these chlorpyrifos compounds; see, for example, the studies in the Endnotes of this Pesticides and You journal article, “Widely Used Pesticide in Food Production Damages Children’s Brains.”

EU member state representatives were scheduled to meet in the first week of December, and a majority was expected to be in favor of a chlorpyrifos ban. Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Slovenia, and Sweden all indicated interest in preventing the renewal of chlorpyrifos-methyl (with Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Poland against cancellation). It is not known whether, should the compounds be banned by the EU, Corteva intends to bring suit against the EC to prevent foreclosure of the use of chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl.

The U.S. has endured its own chlorpyrifos saga during the past few years. As Beyond Pesticides wrote in August 2019: “In 2015 the EPA proposed to revoke food residue tolerances of chlorpyrifos, which would effectively have banned use of the pesticide in agriculture; all residential uses had previously been withdrawn from the market in 2000. Then, early in 2017, with a new administration in place, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed the agency’s own proposal to ban the pesticide — a decision that happened just weeks after Mr. Pruitt met with the head of Dow Chemical Company, maker of the compound. Mr. Pruitt then falsely claimed the science on chlorpyrifos was ‘unresolved’ and said EPA would study the issue — with no planned action — until 2022.”

In April 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to justify why chlorpyrifos should remain in the U.S. market, given the overwhelming evidence of its toxicity to children, especially, and gave EPA 90 days to comply. Astonishingly, in July, EPA denied the petition, and instead of providing the court-mandated rationale for continued use, chose to attack the science as “not . . . valid, complete, and reliable.” Absent any meaningful federal action on these toxic pesticides, Hawaii, California, and New York have all moved to ban chlorpyrifos; Connecticut, Oregon, and Maryland are all in various phases of considering and enacting limits or bans. As with so many environmental concerns during the Trump administration, states are where any meaningful action currently happens.

As Beyond Pesticides covered in May 2019, a group of leading toxics experts has called for a ban on organophosphate pesticides, which category includes chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl. These scientists concluded that: (1) widespread use of organophosphate (OP) pesticides to control insects has resulted in ubiquitous human exposures; (2) acute exposures to OPs are responsible for poisonings and deaths, particularly in developing countries; and (3) evidence demonstrates that prenatal exposures, even at low levels, put children at risk for cognitive and behavioral deficits, and for neurodevelopmental disorders.

A transition to organic food production, and to nontoxic land and pest management systems, is the solution to this and most risks of pesticide use. A robustly growing sector, organics is a real, productive, and viable alternative to the use of toxic pesticides. States should ban chlorpyrifos compounds at the very least, but organophosphates generally, should undertake organic management on state-owned lands, and should support producers in transitioning away from chemical agriculture and to organic, regenerative, and sustainable practices.

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

Source: https://euobserver.com/environment/146772?mc_cid=2e74ccd1fc&mc_eid=ee19ad4c9b

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