US: federal appeals court reverses EPA ban on chlorpyrifos in food crops

In a recent development, the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 2021 ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos in food crops has been overturned by a federal appeals court. The decision has raised concerns, especially due to the pesticide's association with brain damage in children.    

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, with a judge appointed during the Trump administration, was responsible for the reversal, going against the EPA's previous determination that there were virtually no safe uses of chlorpyrifos. The EPA had proposed revoking all food tolerances for the pesticide as early as 2015.    

Chlorpyrifos has been linked to various adverse effects on children's developing brains, including attention deficit disorders, loss of IQ, and reduced working memory. Furthermore, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has warned that the pesticide poses a threat to over 1 200 threatened and endangered species.    

Some environmental advocacy groups, such as Friends of the Earth (FE) and Pesticide Action Network (PAN), strongly condemned the court's decision, emphasizing the toxicity of chlorpyrifos to children, pregnant individuals, and farmworkers. FE called for the restoration of critical science-based regulations and urged the EPA to consider banning all organophosphate pesticides. PAN stressed that the science supporting the harmful effects of chlorpyrifos is robust and well-established, and the court's decision was not based on a lack of scientific evidence but rather on a perceived rush in the EPA's process.    

On the other side, farm groups, which filed a lawsuit against the EPA's ban, welcomed the court's decision.    

The 8th Circuit Court's ruling means that starting in 2024, chlorpyrifos can be used in food production again. This decision does not prevent the EPA from reestablishing the ban in the future. However, the court emphasized that the EPA must carefully evaluate whether there are any circumstances in which the pesticide, known as chlorpyrifos, could be used safely.


United States Court of Appeals