Where is the Science Behind Call to Ban Chlorpyrifos?
By Renee Pinel
While the environmental community remains outraged at those who refuse to acknowledge the body of science surrounding climate change, those same activists conveniently ignore science when it doesn’t mesh with their preconceived notions and political agendas.
If science is a true value, it should be applied across the board and not selectively, as is the case for too many issues, especially with regard to discussions of pesticides and chemicals. Too often, emotion is being conveyed as legitimate science. This is an immense disservice to the public, which deserves objective information – and yes, good science.
A prime example can be found in the unfounded online hysteria around chlorpyrifos – a valuable crop protection tool in the Central Valley that safeguards citrus, nut and fruit trees, as well as many other crops. A piece in the Latino Report does a nice job of exposing how recent media coverage has irresponsibly bought into the inaccurate and highly sensational claims of Bay Area and Coastal activists that the pesticide is endangering communities, especially Hispanic farmworkers.
With no scientific reference or balanced reporting from the farming community or a scientist, media coverage is perpetuating unsubstantiated claims that, as currently regulated, chlorpyrifos causes cancer in children and is dangerous to farmworkers and the community. Just because an activist press release says something doesn’t mean it is factual.
The Latino Report looks at the science, which doesn’t support claims of one widely quoted activist who falsely says
“One of the strongest concerns we have is there is a strong scientific evidence that links chlorpyrifos to harming children. In fact, there is a solid body of research that has shown that prenatal exposure to this type of pesticides has a negative impact on a child’s brain development.”
This makes for a great headline and sound bite. But the allegation doesn’t hold up to reality or scrutiny. Those committed to sound science should know that:
- Concerns about chlorpyrifos are rooted in an old study that has since been widely and repeatedly discredited – most recently by a comprehensive review by the Australian national government;
- Using new and more credible science, the EPA revised its risk assessment and confirmed that there is no causal link between chlorpyrifos and health problems;
- Based on safety assurances, the pesticide has been approved for use in more than 100 countries around the globe to protect more than 50 different crops;
- California has the most restrictive environmental regulations in the world and existing safety limit already ensure safe use of chloropyrifos;
- Without such pesticides as chloropyrifos, our nation’s food supply is jeopardized and puts our population at risk.
Without chlorpyrifos, here is what our fruit and vegetables would look like:
Environmental activists did not include all of this important information. They apparently sought no additional perspectives and did not delve into the overwhelming body of science surrounding this pesticide. To ignore sound science and present a distorted picture that stokes unnecessary fear is a disservice to readers and the community, who deserve objective information so they can make up their own minds about this issue.
The climate change deniers are ridiculed for latching onto bad science that doesn’t reflect the overwhelming view of the scientific community. The same should be true of anti-pesticide activists whose positions rely on questionable research that is out of step with reality.
Pinel is the President & CEO of the Western Plant Health Association.