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Salinas rally set as EPA reverses planned pesticide ban

Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center via Creative Commons
Formulations containing chlorpyrifos were removed from the consumer market in 2000.

Farmworkers and activists plan to gather Friday at noon in Salinas; they are rallying to publicly call on Governor Brown to ban a pesticide called chlorpyrifos.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was scheduled to announced on March 31 the equivalent of a total ban on the pesticide because a court and EPA scientists had found it unsafe. But under the Trump administration, the EPA reversed its ban decision on Wednesday.

"EPA has concluded that, despite several years of study, the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved and that further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos," reads the order reversing the proposed ban.

Now medical professionals and representatives of groups like the United Farm Workers and the Center for Farmworker Families are asking the state to ban the pesticide’s use in California.

Lucia Calderon is spokesperson for a group called Safe Ag Safe Schools. She says about twenty eight thousand pounds of chlorpyrifos is used on crops in Monterey County each year.

"Chlorpyrifos is a specific pesticide. It’s particularly ugly because it’s a really potent neurotoxin," Calderon said. "It was actually banned for residential use in 2000, because of its associations with developmental harm. But it is still used very widely for agriculture.

The National Pesticide Information Center says exposure to the chlorpyrifos is linked to autism, developmental delays and attention deficit disorders.

Chlorpyrifos is made by Dow AgroSciences, which maintains the pesticide is safe and is "one of the most thoroughly studied insecticides on record."

"Dow AgroSciences supports U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision," the company said in a March 30 statement. "Dow AgroSciences remains confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety. This is the right decision for farmers who, in about 100 countries, rely on the effectiveness of chlorpyrifos to protect more than 50 crops. We will continue to cooperate with EPA under the established regulatory process in its scientific review of this vital crop protection solution," 

Friday's noon rally - held on Cesar Chavez Day - will take place at the historic Monterey County Jailat 142 W. Alisal Street in Salinas.