This year has been marked by encouraging and long overdue progress toward eradicating the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos. Following on the heels of Hawaii's ban of the chemical last year, California will phase out chlorpyrifos starting early 2020. And as 2019 comes to a close, we can add two more huge victories to the list.
Last week, representatives from the European Member States Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed voted to ban the neurotoxic pesticides chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl from the European Union (EU) market. And this week, New York Governor Cuomo directed the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to withdraw almost all uses of the chemical by the end of next year.
Industry pressure in the EU
According to PAN Europe and partners, chlorpyrifos is among the most commonly used pesticides in Europe. Its residues are often present in fruits, vegetables, cereals, dairy products and drinking water, and exposure to the chemical has been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders in children.
The EU’s decision to ban chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl is an historic move that has been applauded by health and environmental groups across Europe and around the world — especially in the face of heavy pressure from the pesticide industry. Corteva, the corporation resulting from the merger of Dupont and Dow, is the primary manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, and was reportedly quite aggressive in their lobbying to protect the EU market for their products.
PAN’s Executive Director Kristin Schafer reflected on this bold move by the EU in the context of the U.S. government’s blatant disregard for science in 2017, when a planned national ban of chlorpyrifos was reversed:
We applaud EU leaders for following the science and taking a stand for public and environmental health, despite heavy pressure from the pesticide industry. Unfortunately, the U.S. government is not as strong in the face of such pressure. This kowtowing to industry pressure has left another generation of U.S. children needlessly exposed to a brain-harming pesticide.
New York's decision
Despite inaction at the national level in the U.S., PAN and partners have continued to support efforts to ban chlorpyrifos at the state level across the country. New York is the latest in the line of states stepping up to protect their children, farmworkers, and rural communities.
In April, New York legislators overwhelmingly approved Senate bill S.5343, which would ban all uses of chlorpyrifos as of December 1, 2021. The Governor’s announcement on Tuesday, directing the Department of Environmental Conservation to take action to ban the use of chlorpyrifos, replaces that legislation. Months of community organizing and testimony from scientific experts made evident the broad and deep support for the legislation, no doubt making it clear to the Governor that a chlorpyrifos ban was a correct and direly important move.
The planned ban will eliminate all uses of chlorpyrifos in New York, with the exception of spraying apple tree trunks, by December 2020. And then a full ban of the pesticide will be completed by July 2021.
This third state chlorpyrifos ban is encouraging, and provides even more momentum for similar laws in motion in Oregon, Maryland, Connecticut and beyond.