The EPA, Literally: This Pesticide Is Harmless, But Let’s Ban It Anyhow

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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The Environmental Protection Agency is using a lawsuit by environmentalists to justify banning the commonly used pesticide chlorpyrifos — that the EPA itself has declared safe.

EPA wants to ban chlorpyrifos over concerns that it contaminates drinking water and food. Chlorpyrifos are used on citrus fruits, apples, broccoli and various other crops. U.S. farms used more than 6 million pounds of chlorpyrifos last year.

If nothing changes legally, the EPA will no longer allow incredibly small trace amounts of chlorpyrifos in food, effectively banning the pesticide in the US as soon as 2017. Incidentally, EPA’s own analysis found “there do not appear to be risks from exposure to chlorpyrifos in food.”  The pesticide has been used by American farmers since 1965, and EPA’s own website says chlorpyrifos is safe for humans in “standard” amounts.

“There’s not a lot of evidence of people getting sick from these pesticides from trace exposures found on food, and these environmental groups forget that these products are necessary to produce an affordable food supply. They demand a zero risk, nothing in life is zero risk. They don’t understand just how difficult it is for farmers to feed the world,” said Doctor Angela Logomasini, a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a phone interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Health risks from chlorpyrifos comes from extreme exposure, such as accidents or spills during the manufacturing process, which is no different from the vast majority of pesticides.

The whole initiative could be connected to a common criticism of the EPA, that of “legal collusion”  between itself and various environmental groups through a process called “sue and settle.” The EPA gets sued by environmental groups for failing to meet regulatory deadlines, then the EPA agrees to settle the dispute with these groups out-of-court. These settlements are written behind closed doors with no input from affected parties while still having the full force of law, effectively allowing the EPA to write its own rules with only environmental groups having input.

Between 2009 and 2012, the EPA chose not to defend itself in over 60 lawsuits from special interest groups, resulting in settlement agreements and more than 100 new EPA regulations. These includes the recent Clean Power Plan, which has resulted in legal action by 26 states against it.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North America, filed a federal lawsuit seeking a national ban on chlorpyrifos over theoretical risks of drinking water contamination and alleged contamination of food by the pesticide. But, the EPA admits that it hasn’t completed its assessment of the pesticide’s effects on drinking water and that “certain science issues” regarding chlorpyrifos use are “unresolved.”

The environmental groups also claim that the pesticide interferes with the brain development of fetuses, infants and children. However, this claim goes against  the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states “The risks of pesticides in the diet are remote, long-term, and theoretical, and there is no cause for immediate concern by parents.”

The EPA will take public comments on the proposal for at least two months, with a final rule expected in December 2016. The proposed rule would not take effect until 2017 at the earliest.

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