EPA Chief Rejects Agency’s Own Science, Won’t Ban Toxic Insecticide in Your Food
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
Dow Chemical’s Toxic Insecticide – Banned for Home Use – Will Remain on Farms and In American Food. USDA nods.
In a startling move, Scott Pruitt, new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, overrode the agency’s own scientific belief that one of the most widely used insecticides should be banned from agricultural use due to its toxicity. Pruitt announced late on Wednesday that chlorpyrifos would remain on farms, effectively rejecting the EPA’s conclusions of a permanent, nationwide ban.
The EPA was created after the pesticide findings of Rachel Carson reached critical mass. Although the intent was supposedly to protect humans and the environment, the agency is often seen as a taxpayer-paid frontrunner for corporations, taking their word on their products and approving them blindly. Yet, under the Obama Administration a scientific panel raised its voice and opted for a ban on chlorpyrifos which are used on crops like corn, wheat, apples and citrus. Also on almonds, strawberries, broccoli and cauliflower. The insecticide which has been used since the 1960s was linked to memory loss, reduced IQ, damage to developing children’s brains, attention deficit disorders and acute poisonings. These symptoms were seen in farming families due to the chemical getting into the water and being in such close proximity to the skunky spray.
To put it in perspective how incredible this news is; this is the same agency that approved Dow’s own Enlist Duo despite major public outcry. Many watchdog groups exist in order to alert the public to the EPA’s lazy approvals of chemicals that harm the human nervous system despite pesticide makers’ claims. Now, at the moment the agency awoke to say that we’ve been exposed to danger for the last five decades, their findings are relegated to a trash bin. Jim Jones, former chemical safety unit head at the EPA said the science was “pretty solid” and continued use of the insecticide would put families at risk.
Pruitt’s actions are considered a “final agency action.” People may think a different presidential administration could reverse this decision; however, a reevaluation for this product will not come up until 2022. Pruitt has waved scientific concerns away by using the “inconclusive” banner.
An E.P.A. scientific review panel made up of academic experts last July also had raised questions about some of the conclusions the chemical safety staff had reached. That led the staff to revise the way it had justified its findings of harm, although the agency employees as of late last year still concluded that the chemical should be banned.
Mr. Pruitt, in an announcement issued Wednesday night, said the agency needed to study the science more.
Pruitt said in his statement,
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.
Is Pruitt saying that already determined results do not matter, or did he mean to imply that the scientific determination of toxicity was more or less a “preconceived notion.” Regardless, he is essentially damning the evidence. Dow Agrosciences – the division selling chlorpyrifos praised the decision, of course. Perhaps also unsurprisingly, the USDA has lent its support of Pruitt’s actions.
Sheryl Kunickis, director of the U.S.D.A. Office of Pest Management Policy, said in a statement Wednesday,
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.
A food supply still rife with industrial chemicals that even the EPA scientists want yanked off the market. Kunickis’ comments sound more like someone who is a spokesperson for Dow instead of one concerned about consumer health or farmers – the very engines behind U.S. agriculture.
Environmental groups such as EarthJustice and Pesticide Action Network of North America will return to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to ask judges to order the agency to take action. “We have a law that requires the E.P.A. to ban pesticides that it cannot determine are safe, and the E.P.A. has repeatedly said this pesticide is not safe,” said Patti Goldman, managing attorney at Earthjustice.
Some farmers are claiming that it is perfectly safe. However, they must wear protective clothing, never spill it and take precautions with their children.
One wishes farmers would stand up for their health and stop believing dated corporate PR lines. As NY Times noted, “Dow Chemical, which makes the product, along with farm groups that use it, had argued that the science demonstrating that chlorpyrifos caused such harm is inconclusive — especially when properly used to kill crop-spoiling insects.” But proper use over the decades has shown some alarming health issues.
It’s always an argument of “proper use” or pest management, but as soon as the product is truly seen as harmful or useless against pest resistance, the corporations, time and again, will throw farmers under the bus and blame them for their usage of the insecticide as the problem. Farmers are happy to come to the aid of their vendors because a quick ban would unfairly leave them without options. But hanging on to something harmful to human health, that obviously gets into water tables is a terrible solution, when surely the burden is on corporations to make a better product that does not cause human harm at all.
This brazen disregard for evidence of harm on the part of the EPA chief is an ominous signal that the Trump Administration plans to make corporations its unregulated pets – consumers and farmers cast aside.
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Image: NB, Gage Skidmore/Wikicommons, TP MARTINS / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0