Chemical companies agree to end fight over pesticide ban

Chlorpyrifos, a commonly used pesticide, has been linked to childhood development maladies and nervous system damage.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Chemical companies gave up their fight over California’s ban of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to learning and development disorders.

The accord announced Wednesday with the state Environmental Protection Agency sets the stage for ending nearly all sales of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos by next year, a timeline that probably would not have been met if those companies continued to pursue a hearing on the issue. Instead, they will voluntarily withdraw their products, the EPA announced.

“For years, environmental justice advocates have fought to get the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos out of our communities,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “Thanks to their tenacity and the work of countless others, this will now occur faster than originally envisioned. This is a big win for children, workers and public health in California.”


California EPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld said the agreement “avoids a protracted legal process while providing a clear timeline for California farmers as we look toward developing alternative pest management practices.”

The state has created a working group to identify alternatives to the pesticide, which will no longer be on the market after Feb. 6, 2020. California is the biggest user of the organophosphate compound, spreading 900,000 pounds of it on almonds, grapes, citrus, alfalfa, stone fruit, cotton and other crops in 2017, according to state data.

Corteva AgriScience, formerly known as Dow AgroSciences, is the largest manufacturer of the chemical. A company official wasn’t immediately available for comment.

After ratcheting up restrictions on application of chlorpyrifos products over the past last several years, the state opted this year to revoke product registrations — effectively a ban. Companies led by Dow had requested an administrative hearing, which delayed implementation of the ban.

A small amount of granular chlorpyrifos still can be sold for some applications because the state has concluded it does not pose the same danger as aerially sprayed liquid forms of the chemical.

Chlorpyrifos has become something of a poster child for the Trump administration’s rollback of regulation, which has occurred at times in defiance of scientific findings about health and environmental harm.

Former U.S. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt halted an Obama-era ban that had been hastened by a court order, and his successor, Andrew Wheeler, has since extended the safety review of the pesticide through 2022. California, six other states and a host of environmental and labor groups have sued over those moves.


The federal EPA responded to complaints about its decisions by expediting the review process — it now expects to make an interim decision by October 2020, followed by a public review process.