Pesticide ban

Washington state Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, introduced a bill to partially ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide. The Senate has approved the bill.

OLYMPIA — A Washington state Senate committee on Feb. 6 recommended partially banning chlorpyrifos, acting on the same day as California’s prohibition on selling the pesticide took effect and that a large company announced it will stop producing the chemical.

The Senate agriculture committee’s four Democrats supported the partial ban, over the objections of the panel’s three Republicans. Growers could still use chlorpyrifos on some crops. The ban would be less restrictive than those in California, Hawaii and New York.

Senate Bill 6518 must still pass the full Senate and then work its way through the House. The Washington Farm Bureau and other farm groups oppose the bill.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said she wants to help the agriculture industry move away from chlorpyrifos. “I don’t relish doing this bill,” she said. “I take the fact I brought this forward very seriously.”

Chlorpyrifos, prohibited for residential uses for two decades, is widely used in commercial agriculture. The Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged the health risks, particularly to young and unborn children, when exposed to chlorpyrifos.

The EPA, under the Obama and Trump administrations, has resisted lawsuits to completely ban chlorpyrifos. The EPA says it will complete a review of the pesticide’s uses in 2022.

Meanwhile, Corteva Agriscience, described by the EPA as the primary registrant of chlorpyrifos, announced Feb. 6 it would stop making products with the pesticide. Ending production will benefit shareholders, the company said in a statement.

“Demand for one of our long-standing products, chlorpyrifos, has declined significantly over the last two decades, particularly in the U.S. Due to this reduced demand, Corteva has made the strategic business decision to phase out our production of chlorpyrifos in 2020,” the company stated.

“Our customers will have access to enough chlorpyrifos supply to cover current demand through the end of the year, while they transition to other products or other providers,” the company stated.

Corteva was spun off from DowDuPont last year as a standalone company.

Washington State University entomologist Allan Felsot said he wasn’t surprised by Corteva’s decision to stop making chlorpyrifos. “It’s not really used that much,” he said.

Although chlorpyrifos use is declining, it might still be useful in an emergency because of its broad applications, Felsot said. “It may do the job in the interim until you get something better.”

{p class=”p1”}Rolfes’ bill exempts from a ban crops the state Department of Agriculture said has few alternatives. The crops are mint, onions, sweet corn, Christmas trees, alfalfa, including seed and hay, and brassicas, including for seed and food production. Chlorpyrifos also could be used for nonfood and nonfeed uses.

{p class=”p1”}For other crops, a ban would take effect Jan. 1, 2022. Growers could apply for an emergency permit from the state agriculture department to use chlorpyrifos if no practical alternative was available.

{p class=”p1”}The emergency permits would not allow aerial spraying or applications within 250 feet of homes and schools. Neighbors would have to be warned.

{div class=”page” title=”Page 1”}{div class=”layoutArea”}{div class=”column”}The exemptions do not include tree fruit, such as apples, pears and cherries. Industry representatives said orchards sometimes use chlorpyrifos once a year when trees are dormant.{/div}{/div}{/div}

{p class=”p1”}Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, said tree fruit should be exempted from the ban. He also said he was concerned that farmers won’t get emergency permits quickly enough to squelch an infestation. A retired farmer, Honeyford said he had used chlorpyrifos.

{p class=”p1”}”I believe this is a safe chemical if applied according to the label,” he said.

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