The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced this week its decision to restore the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on crops, including soybeans, following a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
The court found that the EPA unlawfully revoked tolerances, ending the use of the insecticide in 2021.
EPA’s decision aligns with the Nov. 2 ruling from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which determined that EPA neglected to consider its own scientists’ findings in ending what were found to be safe uses of chlorpyrifos. The court vacated the EPA rule, restoring all agricultural uses of the pesticide.
Amid pressure from environmental organizations, the EPA revoked all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos in 2021, which established a level of pesticide allowed on food, rather than opting to modify the tolerances.
This ban on chlorpyrifos use on food and feed crops, stemmed from a Ninth Circuit Court ruling that gave EPA the choice to prohibit all uses or make a finding on residue levels from safe uses within 60 days. EPA is expected to officially reinstate chlorpyrifos use imminently, pending the ruling from the Eighth Circuit going into effect.
In December 2022, the EPA issued a Notice of Intent to Cancel three chlorpyrifos pesticide products because they bear labeling for use on food.
Chlorpyrifos is a chemical class of insecticides that has been in use since the ’60s, treating pests on over 80 different crops. On soybeans alone, it helps to mitigate leaf beetle, soybean aphid, caterpillars, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, and others. Farm groups have said that using chlorpyrifos has prevented up to 40 percent yield losses for soybeans in the Midwest.
Farmers rely on pesticides like chlorpyrifos to protect crops and uphold conservation practices. Congress has established science-based processes to ensure safe use without harm to people or the environment.
Grower groups, including ASA, have voiced concerns about blanket bans on chlorpyrifos, highlighting the negative impact on crops and farmers’ livelihoods when agencies disregard their own science and processes.
ASA Director Alan Meadows spoke on behalf of the soy industry, expressing soy’s satisfaction.
“U.S. soybean growers welcome the announcement that chlorpyrifos tolerances and uses will be restored, and EPA will commit to a science-based review of the pesticide, as ordered by the Eighth Circuit Court. EPA’s own science has repeatedly found there are at least 11 high-benefit, safe uses of chlorpyrifos, including for soybeans—a fact of which we will continue to remind the agency throughout this process,” said Meadows.
While EPA allows all revoked uses of chlorpyrifos to resume, it plans to propose a new rule revoking pesticide residue tolerances for all uses except 11 specified by the court. These 11 uses, including crops like alfalfa, soybeans, citrus, peaches, and tart cherries, rely on chlorpyrifos to control various insects.
»Related: EPA declines to ban the popular insecticide chlorpyrifos