This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.
Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used pesticides in America, although it has been banned in the European Union. Last week, the Ninth Circuit took the extraordinary step of ordering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) point-blank to ban or reduce traces of chlorpyrifos in food. A dissenter accused the majority of misreading the statute in question and abusing its discretion by limiting EPA's options so drastically and giving it only 60 days to act. Warning: The majority and dissenting opinions cover 116 pages, so I'll necessarily be leaving out a lot of details and nuances.
Who is right depends partly on how you read the statute and partly on whether EPA was acting in good faith. Judge Bybee thought that EPA had acted in good faith, while the majority clearly thought EPA had been intentionally dragging its feet for 14 years to avoid implementing its statutory mandate.
Given chlorpyrifos' widespread use, it is economically very important. That also means it is likely to be present in many foods. That's a big worry, since there's evidence that exposure to chlorpyrifos before birth can cause neurological problems in …
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet.
Last Thursday, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Scott Pruitt had no justification for allowing even the tiniest traces of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos (also called Lorsban and Dursban) on food. This is yet another judicial slap against lawlessness by the current administration.
Chlorpyrifos was originally invented as a nerve gas, but it turns out that it kills insects quite satisfactorily. (I remember ads for "Big Foot Lorsban" from back when I lived in downstate Illinois, many years ago. As I recall, the ad showed Lorsban stomping out insects in a farmer's field.) In the past, EPA had set a maximum level of pesticide residue on foods, which the statute allows only if there's no substantial doubt about safety at that level. But there's now a lot of evidence that even trace amounts chlorpyrifos can harm babies and children. Despite the evidence, EPA stalled for …