This week marks the end of chlorpyrifos sales in California. After the exhausting saga of pesticide industry influence and ignored science that resulted in EPA reversing the planned national ban of the brain-harming chemical in 2017, this concrete step forward for California is momentous.
It's also having ripple effects across the country. Several states have chlorpyrifos ban bills moving forward this session, and just today Corteva (formerly Dow) announced it will stop producing chlorpyrifos by the end of the year. Corteva is the largest producer of this pesticide worldwide.
But when a dangerous chemical like chlorpyrifos that has been widely used for pest management is eliminated, what takes its place? Following the decision to cancel chlorpyrifos in California, a Work Group was convened to identify alternatives.
Hearing from the people
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) convened this 20 member Work Group to identify short-and long-term chlorpyrifos alternatives. PAN Senior Scientist Margaret Reeves and our partner Central California Environmental Justice Network’s Nayamin Martinez are participating in the group, advocating on behalf of communities and for public health.
The group recently pulled together their preliminary recommendations for how to replace chlorpyrifos, and three listening sessions were then held in Fresno, Sacramento and Oxnard to elicit comments from the public.
The listening sessions were a good-faith effort on the administration’s part to hear the concerns of the community — translation was provided and the sessions were scheduled around regular working hours. Our partners at Californians For Pesticide Reform (CPR) organized fiercely to ensure good turnout; over one hundred community members were present at the Fresno listening session.
Safe, healthy, and just solutions
The majority of community members expressed concerns about the high public health cost of using chlorpyrifos; we know we can’t just substitute one dangerous pesticide for another. But the pesticide industry was also there in full force, pushing their tired talking points around GMOs as the solution to reducing pesticide use.
Thankfully, advocates and scientists were quick to point out the fallacy of these industry arguments, and the need for the government to step up and support growers in transitioning toward safer alternatives. A shift to agroecological practices is the best solution for growers, the community and the environment.
These talking points were underscored last week by the submission of 1,278 comments to the administration collected by PAN and CPR from folks all across California. The key message? It’s time to move California toward farming that isn't chemical intensive, and the Work Group now has the opportunity to develop and adopt lower-risk pest management approaches.
Over the next couple of months, the Work Group will discuss and apply public comments to their draft recommendations, and continue to develop a five-year action plan to be completed by April 2020. In the meantime it’s comforting to know that chlorpyrifos sales — aside from granular forms — have now stopped in California, and we’re looking forward to December of this year when use will be completely prohibited.