EPA Announces Revocation of all Food Tolerances for Chlorpyrifos (08/26/21)
On August 18, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they were revoking the food tolerances for chlorpyrifos residues under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Non-food uses of chlorpyrifos will be addressed separately under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Chlorpyrifos is the active ingredient found in several insecticide products, either alone (e.g. Lorsban), or as a pre-mix with other insecticides (e.g. Cobalt Advanced). The revocation goes into effect six months after the notice is officially published in the Federal Register. The news release can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-takes-action-address-risk-chlorpyrifos-and-protect-childrens-health
The news release contains supporting information on chlorpyrifos, including a summary of EPA regulatory actions regarding chlorpyrifos since 2000. Also, EPA released a pre-publication Internet version of the official final rule which can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/system/files/documents/2021-08/pre-pub-5993-04-ocspp-fr_2021-08-18.pdf
For several decades, farmers have used chlorpyrifos for managing a wide variety of insect pests. Below are questions and answers regarding this announcement:
Question: Why is EPA taking this action?
Answer: EPA is complying with conditions in the Ninth Circuit Court order of April 29, 2021, to grant the 2007 petition filed by Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council for revocation of all chlorpyrifos food tolerances under section 408 of FFDCA. EPA is required by this same law to assess aggregate exposure (dietary and non-dietary routes) when establishing pesticide tolerances. Based on the current data gathered by and available to EPA, EPA is unable to determine that aggregate exposure to chlorpyrifos residues are safe, and this factored into the EPA final decision.
Question: Who is affected by this action?
Answer: The entire agricultural industry where chlorpyrifos is used, or exposure to chlorpyrifos residues occurs, including crop producers, animal producers, food manufacturers, and pesticide manufacturers and distributors.
Question: What pesticide products will be impacted by this decision?
Answer: Chlorpyrifos is often associated with the trade name Lorsban, which was used for the first commercially available chlorpyrifos-containing insecticide products. After the patent expired, many generic formulations were introduced to the market. In North Dakota, there are dozens of products registered for use on crops. At the time of this writing, 46 products are registered. (Not all are designed for use on food crops.)
Question: What if I use this product in 2021 and then sell my crop after the revocation?
Answer: As long as the application was made prior to the revocation, the FDA will exempt commodities from being designated adulterated. Demonstrating when the application is made may become an issue. Therefore, users of chlorpyrifos would be wise to make sure their application records are up to date, secured, and available for inspection. Since chlorpyrifos is considered a Restricted Use Pesticide, users are required by law to keep application records for a minimum of three years.
Question: Can I store grain now that was legally treated with chlorpyrifos, and sell the grain after the revocation goes into effect?
Answer: Yes. See Answer above.
Question: Does revocation of tolerances mean the product is no longer available for use?
Answer: Yes and no. It may not be used according to label instructions on food crops, but it may continue to be used on labeled sites that do not impact food crops, including but not limited to grass grown for sod or on Christmas tree farms.
Question: When will these revocations be implemented?
Answer: Six months after they are published in the Federal Register. The final date is not known. However, in practice, the publication will likely occur in the next one to three months. Under rare circumstances this may take up to six months.
Question: Will I be able to use existing inventories of chlorpyrifos on my crops in 2022 and beyond?
Answer: This order is likely to come into effect in the first quarter of 2022. Therefore, users in North Dakota and surrounding states would not be able to use it on crops during the 2022 growing season. It would still be available for non-food situations.
Questions What are the consequences of using chlorpyrifos on food crops after the revocation?
Answer: If ANY chlorpyrifos is detected in a food crop, it would be considered adulterated by the Food and Drug Administration. There are significant consequences. You can read more about this at NDSU’s Food Law web page. In a worst-case situation, crop condemnation is possible and if the commodity is commingled, it could result in contamination and further condemnations. While it is unlikely this would lead to serious health risks, it presents significant risk for loss of crop marketability.
Question: I have significant inventories of chlorpyrifos, what should I do with them?
Answer: It depends on a variety of factors. Small quantities could be used on labeled use sites, but this may become impractical. One can inquire about buy-back programs with your distributor but at the time of this writing, no manufacturers have announced a willingness to purchase inventories. Waste pesticide collection programs are another option. North Dakota has Project Safe Send and this would be a logical means of disposal. Waste collections are expected to be available again in July of 2022.
Question: What alternatives to chlorpyrifos do I have?
Answer: It depends on the crop and pest. The ruling here applies only to chlorpyrifos, and not to other organophosphate insecticides. There are still organophosphate insecticides available for soil and foliar applications, as well as neonicotinoids, pyrethroids, and other modes of action. However, for some crops such as sunflower, the loss of chlorpyrifos restricts foliar applications to the use of pyrethroids for most insect pests, and control may not be as effective for certain pests, such as red sunflower seed weevil and spider mites. The revocation will also limit foliar insecticide applications in sugarbeet to mostly pyrethroids and, to a much lesser extent, neonicotinoids. Therefore, prudent use of pest management practices (e.g., pest monitoring, adherence to economic thresholds, use of alternative control tactics, etc.) will be essential to preserving the effectiveness of the remaining insecticidal tools available to producers.
Extension Pesticide Program Specialist
Extension Crop Protection Specialist, NCREC
Research & Extension Entomologist