Agreement reached to end sale of chlorpyrifos in California by February 2020

October 9, 2019 /

The California Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that virtually all use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos in California will end next year, officials say.

The decision, which calls to end the sale of the pesticide by February of 2020, follows an agreement between the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and pesticide manufacturers to withdraw their products, according to a press release by DPR.

“For years, environmental justice advocates have fought to get the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos out of our communities,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “Thanks to their tenacity and the work of countless others, this will now occur faster than originally envisioned. This is a big win for children, workers and public health in California.”

Chlorpyrifos, an effective insecticide, controls pests on a variety of crops, including alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes and walnuts. Use of chlorpyrifos dropped more than 50 percent from two million pounds in 2005 to just over 900,000 pounds in 2017, according to DPR.

Chlorpyrifos use in Kern County in 2016 was higher than anywhere else statewide, according to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation Annual Pesticide Use Report. More than 203,000 pounds of chlorpyrifos were applied in Kern County in 2016 – about 23 percent of the total amount of that pesticide used across California, according to the report.

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DPR announced in May it was working to ban the use of chlorpyrifos by canceling the pesticide’s product registrations. This decision was made after research found chlorpyrifos is associated with serious health effects in children and other sensitive populations, such as impaired brain and neurological development.

“The swift end to the sale of chlorpyrifos protects vulnerable communities by taking a harmful pesticide off the market,” said California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld. “This agreement avoids a protracted legal process while providing a clear timeline for California farmers as we look toward developing alternative pest management practices.”

DPR and the California Department of Food and Agriculture have established a cross-sector working group to identify, evaluate and recommend safer, more sustainable pest management alternatives to chlorpyrifos, DPR said. 

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Before the agreement was made, officials believed the cancellation process could take up to two years; however, the agreement with Dow AgroSciences and other companies means the  use of chlorpyrifos will end sooner than anticipated. 

Under the settlement, according to DPR, the companies agreed that:

  • All sales of chlorpyrifos products to growers in California will end on Feb. 6, 2020.
  • Growers will no longer be allowed to possess or use chlorpyrifos products in California after Dec. 31, 2020.
  • Until then, all uses must comply with existing restrictions, including a ban on aerial spraying, quarter-mile buffer zones and limiting use to crop-pest combinations that lack alternatives. DPR will support aggressive enforcement of these restrictions.

The development of safe, more sustainable alternatives to chlorpyrifos is being supported through the current state budget, which appropriates more than $5 million in grant funding for the purpose, DPR said in a news release.

Photo courtesy of Valerie Gorospe