Court Ruling Starts Clock Ticking for Chlorpyrifos

In mid-2020, a decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding dicamba’s registration sent the agricultural industry scrambling for clarity. Now, almost one year later, another active ingredient has been sentenced by the court.

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On April 29, Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, ordered the EPA to quickly determine whether the insecticide chlorpyrifos can remain on the market or must be banned because of some studies linking its use to brain damage in children. The agency has 60 days from the ruling to make this determination.

“The EPA has spent more than a decade assembling a record of chlorpyrifos’ ill effects,″ U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote in the court’s majority decision. “Yet, rather than ban the pesticide or reduce the tolerances to levels that the EPA can find are reasonably certain to cause no harm, the EPA has sought to evade, through one delaying tactic after another, its plain statutory duties.″

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In truth, chlorpyrifos was already on shaky grounds in many respects. California banned sales of the active ingredient in 2020, and other states such as New York have also moved to ban it. Furthermore, Corteva Agriscience, which had been the world’s largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, stopped producing it last year.

Before this back during the Barack Obama Administration, there was an effort to ban the use of chlorpyrifos. However, this was rescinded during the Donald Trump Administration. Recently, current President Joe Biden signed an executive order this year to review the Trump EPA’s decision to keep chlorpyrifos on the market.

Within the agricultural industry, some are questioning the process through which a potential chlorpyrifos ban might come to pass. In fact, this is the position of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA). “ARA opposes the court ruling because it will set a bad precedent for EPA’s registration review process for all agricultural chemicals by allowing petitioners and the federal courts to impose their decision-making process in reviewing the science over EPA’s long-standing regulatory authority as established by Congress,” it said in a statement.

For right now, however, the industry and chlorpyrifos will have to wait and see what EPA ultimately decides between now and the end of June regarding the active ingredient’s future.

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