California Citrus Mutual Opposes Chlorpyrifos Ban

Len WilcoxCalifornia Corner, Regulation

California Citrus Mutual

California Citrus Mutual (CCM) has issued a statement opposing the upcoming statewide ban of chlorpyrifos. The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) announced that the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is now working to rescind the approved use of the pesticide, which will effectively ban the pesticide from any use in California. The process could take up to two years.

CalEPA sources say new studies indicate that chlorpyrifos causes serious health effects in children and other sensitive populations at lower levels of exposure than previously understood. These effects include impaired brain and neurological development.

“California’s action to cancel the registration of chlorpyrifos is needed to prevent the significant harm this pesticide causes children, farm workers and vulnerable communities,” said CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. “This action also represents a historic opportunity for California to develop a new framework for alternative pest management practices.”

CCM President Casey Creamer does not agree that the new studies present valid information.

“This decision relies heavily on an evaluation that was significantly flawed and based upon unrealistic modeling scenarios that are not verifiable by actual results in DPR’s own air monitoring networks,” Creamer said.

According to Creamer, “The process for which this chemical was evaluated was purposely exaggerated to achieve the desired outcome and jeopardizes the scientific credibility of the Department of Pesticide Regulation. This decision sets a terrible precedent for future evaluations and creates a chilling effect on companies planning on making significant investments to bring new products to the market in California.”

“The citrus industry is fighting feverishly to protect itself from the deadly citrus disease, huanglongbing,” Creamer continued. “In order to do so, we must have the necessary tools in the toolbox for an effective integrated pest management program.”

Creamer pointed out that “California Citrus Mutual and our member growers stand by science that is sound, that properly evaluates risks and puts forward appropriate safeguards to protect ourselves, our employees and our surrounding communities. We are committed to safe and effective use of chlorpyrifos and other crop protection tools.”

In the last several months, regulatory actions seemed to be tolling a death knell for the pesticide. In April, chlorpyrifos was formally listed as a “toxic air contaminant,” which California law defines as “an air pollutant which may cause or contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious illness, or which may pose a present or potential hazard to human health.” The listing requires DPR to develop control measures to protect the health of farm workers and others living and working near where the pesticide is used.

In the agency’s press release, DPR said it intends to move forward by beginning the process of canceling the registrations for products containing chlorpyrifos. It will also convene a cross-sector working group to identify safer alternatives to avoid replacing chlorpyrifos with an equally harmful pesticide.

DPR also will consult with county agricultural commissioners and local air pollution control districts before filing for cancellation.

During the cancellation process, DPR’s recommendations to county agricultural commissioners for tighter permit restrictions on the use of chlorpyrifos will remain in place. These include a ban on aerial spraying, quarter-mile buffer zones and limiting use to crop-pest combinations that lack alternatives. DPR will support aggressive enforcement of these restrictions.

Chlorpyrifos is used to control pests on a variety of crops, including alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes and walnuts. It has declined in use over the past decade. Use of the pesticide dropped more than 50 percent from 2 million pounds in 2005 to just over 900,000 pounds in 2016.

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Len Wilcox

Correspondent at Large for Citrus Industry Magazine and AgNet West