Growers in California and Arizona can still use chlorpyrifos to control critical pests in a cornucopia of commodities, this after a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that denied the petition of environmental groups to ban all tolerances of the product in the United States.
The EPA was under a federal court order to render a decision on chlorpyrifos by March 31.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used to control many different kinds of pests, including termites, mosquitoes and roundworms. It is also effective in controlling agricultural pests known to make crops unmarketable or cause fatal diseases in some crops.
Chlorpyrifos was first registered in the U.S. in 1965, and re-registered by EPA in 2006.
While the federal EPA ruling covers use across the U.S., states like California, which regulates pesticide use through the state Department of Pesticide Regulations, place tougher restrictions on crop protection products. The March 30 decision changes nothing about how California regulates the product.
Shortly after the EPA announcement was made DPR spokesperson Charlotte Fadipe said products containing the active ingredient could still be used in California. She further went on to say that DPR currently has no plans to further restrict or ban the product in California.
Chlorpyrifos is currently a restricted-use material in California, meaning consumers cannot legally purchase or use products containing the active ingredient. For commercial growers, special training and licenses are required to use the product.
In addition to the restricted-use labeling for chlorpyrifos products, California also restricts high-VOC (volatile organic compound) formulations of the product for air quality reasons. There are a number of approved low-VOC formulations of chlorpyrifos available for use in California.
Chlorpyrifos is an important pest control product for crops like citrus, according to Beth Grafton-Cardwell, integrated pest management specialist and research entomologist with the University of California. For example, products containing chlorpyrifos are effective at helping control the Asian citrus psyllid, a pest known to cause citrus greening disease, or Huanglongbing.
“There are no other treatments for ants and it is broad spectrum, which means the grower only has to spray once for multiple pests instead of multiple times for each pest,” Grafton-Cardwell said.
California crops, including almonds, asparagus, leafy vegetables, corn, cotton, grapes, strawberries, walnuts and wheat, are among the other products labeled to use chlorpyrifos.
California Citrus Mutual (CCM) President Joel Nelsen praised the EPA decision, saying, “We believe that sound science should prevail in the regulation of crop protection tools.”
CCM board members met several times last year with the EPA to convey the product's importance to California citrus farmers. The product currently has established international standards that allow growers access to important export markets, Nelsen says.
Roger Isom, president of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, hailed the announcement, saying the EPA’s petition denial was based on the foundation in which the EPA was created.
“This is great news for producers and shows the EPA’s redirection towards supporting a scientific process,” Isom said.
“This is a welcome decision grounded in evidence and science,” said Sheryl Kunickis, director of the Office of Pest Management and Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “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.”