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EPA’s Chlorpyrifos Ban Spotlights Future of Agricultural Pesticide Use


Monday, September 13, 2021   

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Experts say most agriculture producers in Kentucky won't be affected by the Environmental Protection Agency's recent decision to ban a common pesticide, widely used since the 1960s on fruits and vegetables, because it has been linked to neurological damage in children.

The new rule takes effect in six months and follows an order in April by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that directed the EPA to halt the agricultural use of the chemical unless it could demonstrate its safety.

University of Kentucky Extension entomologist Rick Bessin said the phaseout of chlorpyrifos won't be a huge loss to the state's produce industry.

"We did use some chlorpyrifos in Kentucky," said Bessin. "But when I look at the national map of where it was used, we were very much a lower-use rate than many other states."

Chlorpyrifos is commonly applied to corn, soybeans, apples, broccoli, asparagus and other produce. Numerous studies have shown the chemical can cause damage in kids' developing brains, leading to reduced IQ, attention deficit disorder and loss of memory.

Bessin added that newer pesticide products are increasingly selective, meaning they target one particular pest without affecting honeybees and other ecologically important wildlife.

"They may not kill all insects out in the field," said Bessin. "They may just target a few. They may get aphids and white flies, and they won't touch the caterpillars or beetles."

Bessin also added that climate change potentially could affect the quantities of pesticides used on food crops in the future.

"So if climate change results in we have more frequent pest problems," said Bessin, "where pests get above what we call an economic threshold, we're going to end up using more pesticides."

The Division of Environmental Services in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture regulates federal and state pesticide laws, and requires that applicators keep detailed records of pesticide use.

Commercial and non-commercial pesticide applicators in the state must be certified and licensed.

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