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EU votes against renewing chlorpyrifos approval

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European officials have voted not to renew the approvals of chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl.

Chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl are insecticides to control insect pests on a range of crops. Chlorpyrifos-methyl is also used to treat stored cereal grain.

This past week at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) member states voted on two draft implementing regulations proposing to not renew their approvals. The committee also discussed renewal of metalaxyl-M, foramsulfuron and approval of L‑cysteine.

Newly-appointed European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, welcomed the decision on Chlorpyrifos.

Once the European Commission formally adopts the regulations, which is expected in January 2020, member states must withdraw all authorisations for plant protection products containing the active substances. A period of grace for final storage, disposal and use of a maximum of three months may be granted by countries. After that, such products cannot be put on the market or used in Europe.

Decision backed by campaign groups
Chlorpyrifos is a commonly used pesticide in Europe and its residues can be present in fruits, vegetables, cereals and dairy products, as well as drinking water.

Genon K. Jensen, executive director of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), said the ban was a “major win” for the healthy development of children and future generations.

“While we can’t take away the decades of exposure to these substances and the associated neurodevelopmental impacts, the new Commission can make sure this doesn’t continue to happen with other substances by committing to decreasing Europe’s dependency on pesticides and addressing remaining loopholes in evaluation processes.”

Angeliki Lyssimachou, science policy officer at Pesticide Action Network Europe, said human health has been put above industry interests and private profit.

“It took an overwhelming amount of evidence – showing that chlorpyrifos insecticides may cause brain toxicity in children – for the European Commission to propose a ban; member states voting against it would had left European citizens in complete despair.”

Nabil Berbour, campaign manager at SumOfUs, said European citizens are more and more concerned by dangerous pesticides on their plates.

“The EU is the largest single market in the world and the most powerful trading power, so we hope this ban will pave the way to other bans elsewhere in the world.”

In April 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and member states discussed the human health assessment of chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl. Experts found concerns related to human health due to possible genotoxicity and developmental neurotoxicity. The Commission then mandated EFSA to provide statements on the main findings on health for the two substances.

In August, EFSA confirmed concerns for health have been identified and safe levels of exposure cannot be determined based on available data. The agency concluded the approval criteria for health in EU legislation are not met.

The Commission is discussing a draft regulation with member states to lower Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) of chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl in food and feed to the lowest level that can be measured by analytical laboratories. A vote on this is expected in February 2020.

Situation in the United States
Chlorpyrifos has been banned in Hawaii and California, and a ban in New York ban is pending the governor’s signature.

Kristin Schafer, PAN North America executive director, said EU leaders have followed the science and taken a stand for public and environmental health, despite pressure from the pesticide industry.

“Unfortunately the U.S. government is not as strong in the face of such pressure. The politically appointed leaders of our Environmental Protection Agency flouted the recommendations of their own scientists, and reversed the planned ban of Dow’s chlorpyrifos just weeks after meeting with representatives of the corporation in early 2017,” she said.

“This kow-towing to industry pressure left another generation of U.S. children needlessly exposed to a brain-harming pesticide. We’ll continue to support action at the state level here in this country, and heartily congratulate EU countries for doing the right thing.”

Chlorpyrifos is a widely used pesticide in the U.S. on food crops, including apples, strawberries, cherries, pears, peaches, nectarines, and cherries.

“American children and farmworkers would not be exposed to this dangerous pesticide today if the Trump EPA had not ignored the advice of its scientists and kowtowed to the chemical agricultural industry,” said Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook.

“Why should kids in France, Germany and Italy be protected from a brain-damaging chemical while U.S. kids continue to be exposed?”

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