Data OKs Chlorpyrifos Label

Data OKs Chlorpyrifos Label

July 14, 2017

Protestors in Sacramento Want Chlorpyrifos Banned

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Frank Zalom

In March, Scott Pruitt, the EPA chief, rejected a 10-year-old request by environmental groups to ban chlorpyrifos for use in agriculture. The active ingredient is used as an insecticide on several crops on numerous pests. However environmental groups, along with some farm workers, are making a lot of noise in Sacramento in hopes that the Department of Pesticide Regulation will pull the plug on the material.

The environmental groups are questioning the safety of chlorpyrifos on not only the environment but also humans. Frank Zalom is a distinguished professor of entomology, agriculture experiment station entomologist, and extension specialist at UC Davis. He said it's really hard to prove 100% safety.

“We can never be 100% sure if things are safe, and that's absolutely true,” Zalom said. And that is the direction that the environmental groups want to go to get the attention of the California Department of Pesticide Regulations.

“Often, regulators will make decisions that reflect what popular culture is. And our culture in California is different than the national culture,” Zalom said. “If they decide that they're going to make a decision based on political reasons, it'll probably reflect what the rules are in California. It doesn't surprise me that people are out protesting, even though I haven't been following any of that.”

Zalom noted that he would like to see DPR make decisions based on a scientific point of view. “I'd say that, yeah, I'd like to see them make decisions based on science, but if you start saying, 'Well, can you be sure these things are safe?" You can never make sure you're safe, and that's where you end up running into that area. Do you want to be 99.9% safe or 100% safe? You're never going to be 100% and that's where that leaves that flexibility then for decisions to be made more on a political basis, and so things happen like that,” Zalom said.

“I'd like to think that people are going to continue to make decisions for scientific reasons, but it wouldn't surprise me that DPR might bend to some protests, and that's why the people are doing it. I'm sure they think they're going to be effective in doing that,” he said.

Beth Grafton-Cardwell is a director of the Lindcove Research and Education Center and a research entomologist for UC Riverside. She described to California Ag Today what was going on back in DC regarding this ban.

“Basically, during the Obama era, the circuit court said you must act immediately so the previous EPA director was bending to what they wanted and was going to make a fast decision because he felt like he was being pressured by the court to do that,” Grafton-Cardwell said. "Secretary Pruitt came in and said ‘I'm not going to be pressured, we're going to get all the science, and we're going to make a rational decision.’”

Beth Grafton-Cardwell

“It should be based on science. The benefits and risks should be weighed, but it should be based on science,” she said.

Grafton-Cardwell focuses a lot of her time on citrus and she says chlorpyrifos is important for that crop. “Citrus growers, I believe, are already managing these chemicals very, very carefully. They don't spray during bloom. They don't spray around schools. They only spray when the wind speed is not too great.

“Growers are very, very careful how they apply chlorpyrifos, and it still has some really important uses. And one of the biggest ones, believe or not, is ants. Ants climb trees. They protect pests against natural enemies,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “In agriculture, we don't have good ant control for black ants other than applying chlorpyrifos. To make our IPM programs work, we need chlorpyrifos treatments to keep the ants under control, so that's a good example."

Dow AgroSciences also sent California Ag Today a statement on the recent developments on chlorpyrifos. Of course, they're the registrant of a brand name called Lorsban, a chlorpyrifos product.

  • EPA’s decision is good news for growers because it is based on applicable regulatory procedures and is consistent with good science.  Product approvals rest on five decades of experience in use, health surveillance of manufacturing workers and applicators, and more than 4,000 studies and reports examining the product in terms of health, safety and the environment. No pest control product has been more thoroughly evaluated.
  • Chlorpyrifos is a critical tool for growers of more than 50 different types of crops in the United States. For many important pests, growers face limited or no viable alternatives to chlorpyrifos. When an outbreak of a new pest occurs, growers look to chlorpyrifos as a proven first-line of defense.
  • Chlorpyrifos contributes significantly to the control of a broad spectrum of insect pests in a wide range of crops, including cereal, oilseed, forage, fruit, nut, and vegetable crops. Chlorpyrifos is not only one of the most effective and economical insecticides available for U.S. agriculture, but there are a number of crops and pests for which no viable alternatives exist.
  • We are confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products, when used as directed, offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety.