A coalition of farm groups are suing to block the Environmental Protection Agency from prohibiting the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops, starting Feb. 28.

EPA announced the insecticide ban in August in response to an order by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in St. Louis, the American Farm Bureau Federation and national and state groups representing growers of soybeans, sugar beets, wheat, cotton and fruits and vegetables say EPA ignored the agency’s own scientific analysis in revoking all food tolerances for chlorpyrifos.

The groups noted EPA issued an interim decision in 2020 that would have allowed the continued use of the chemical in certain regions on eleven crops - alfalfa, apple, asparagus, cherry, citrus, cotton, peach, soybean, sugarbeet, strawberry, and wheat. The affected crops are worth $59 billion annually, the lawsuit says. 

“Rather than modify tolerances consistent with its finding that EPA’s Designated Safe Uses are safe, EPA’s Final Rule revoked all tolerances for chlorpyrifos. EPA did not have any new data or scientific analyses to support this decision,” the lawsuit says.

The primary U.S. supplier of chlorpyrifos, Gharda Chemicals International Inc., also is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

More than 80 ag groups filed formal objections to the EPA decision last October.

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EPA said the ban was necessary to protect human health, particularly that of children and farmworkers.

The Food and Drug Administration issued guidance this week to food companies on how to handle products that may contain residues of the chemical.

Brad Doyle, president of the American Soybean Association, said EPA’s interim decision would have allowed “high-benefit, low-risk" crop uses to continue. “How can they now deny all uses, even when the court gave them options for keeping those found safe?” Doyle asked.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said, “Taking away this tool takes us backward by increasing the use of less effective pesticides to compensate and, in some cases, sacrificing crops that supply our food when no other defense exists against certain pests.”

The insecticide has been under fire for many years because of its neurotoxic effects, especially on infants and children. Major manufacturer Corteva Agriscience stopped making the insecticide at the end of 2020.

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