EPA chief assailed - and applauded - for not banning controversial pesticide

Chlorpyrifos was first registered for use in the United States by Dow Chemical in 1965 to control leafage and ground insects. The Act would restrict the science considered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when developing new regulations, to only research that is publicly available.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall today applauded Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for rejecting a petition that would have eliminated the use of chlorpyrifos in agriculture.

Pruitt's decision comes on a petition requesting that the agency ban the use of chlorpyrifos on all USA food crops.

This may sound like a positive push for transparency-"this legislation ensures that sound science is the basis for EPA decisions and regulatory actions", Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House science committee, told his fellow representatives this week (via The Hill).

"We have a law that requires the EPA to ban pesticides that it can not determine are safe, and the EPA has repeatedly said this pesticide is not safe", Patti Goldman, managing attorney at Earthjustice, a San Francisco-based environmental group that serves as the legal team for NRDC, told the New York Times.

The decision came after a federal court ordered the agency to come to a decision by Friday. Traces have also been found in waterways, threatening fish populations.

Chlorpyrifos is now a restricted-use material in California, meaning consumers can not legally purchase or use products containing the active ingredient. EPA also placed "no-spray" buffer zones around sensitive sites, such as schools, in 2012. That order had been prompted by petitions from environmental groups, including Earthjustice, to ban chlorpyrifos. The move stemmed from a 2007 petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network North America.

"Based on the harm that this pesticide causes, the EPA can not, consistent with the law, allow it in our food", said Patti Goldman, a lawyer with the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice, citing a number of studies that have demonstrated the harmful effects of the pesticide in humans. But when those exposures are combined with estimated exposure from drinking water in certain watersheds, "EPA can not conclude that the risk from aggregate exposure meets the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act safety standard", it said.

The decision drew support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which called Lorsban an important tool that helps assure an abundant and affordable food supply, and condemnation from environmental groups.

The EPA says the 2015 proposal "largely relied on certain epidemiological study outcomes, whose application is novel and uncertain, to reach its conclusions". But now the new leadership of the EPA said "reliable data, overwhelming in both quantity and quality, contradicts the reliance" on the earlier studies.

Rodriguez reported from San Francisco.

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