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March 30, 2017 - This article is owned by the Agricultural Retailers Association

The Environmental Protection Agency stood up to activist pressure on Wednesday and declined a petition to cancel food use tolerances for chlorpyrifos.

Claims in the petition were based on unreliable information from epidemiological studies that reported outcomes that could not be replicated. The findings were soundly contradicted by other studies.

The Agricultural Retailers Association has been an active member of the Chlorpyrifos Alliance, a coalition working to defend this product, and submitted comments to EPA supporting its continued use. ARA was critical of the EPA under the Obama administration for proposing to cancel food use tolerances instead of proposing a regulatory cancellation under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. The move appeared to be an end run around the statutory process for registering and canceling products.

The USDA disagreed with the methodology used by the previous administration, as well, as did the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the agency’s own FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel expressed concerns with reliance on certain data used to support EPA’s proposal to ban the pesticide.

EPA should have denied the petition a long time ago and proceeded in conducting its risk assessment for chlorpyrifos in accordance with its scientifically sound historical practice.

“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 Scott 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.”

With the petition dismissed, EPA can focus its attention on updating and revising its human health assessment for chlorpyrifos under the standard procedures of the ongoing registration review process, scheduled for completion on October 1, 2022, in order to support future decision-making. The agency should be able to meet this target to reassess the product under current science unless it is delayed by additional activist litigation.

Chlorpyrifos is a critical tool for growers of more than 50 different types of crops in the United States and is one of the most widely used active ingredients in insecticides in the world. Since it was first registered in the U.S. in 1965, chlorpyrifos has played a key role in pest management efforts, protecting crops against damage caused by a wide range of insect pests.

EPA’s denial of the petition is supported by EPA’s own process, by statutory directives, and by established guidance for regulatory decision-making developed over four decades.

The regulatory process for assessing human health risks should be rigorous, science-based, and transparent. Statutes in place authorizing regulation of pesticide products demand such a system. EPA’s denial of the petition signals a return to the science-based risk assessment foundations of the regulatory process required by Congress.

EPA’s decision is good news for ag retailers and growers because it is based on applicable regulatory procedures and is consistent with sound science. We are confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products, when used as directed, offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety.

“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.”