07.06.2019 |

Quarter of pesticides used in US are banned in the EU, study

US farmers use many pesticides banned elsewhere (Photo: CC0)

Pesticides banned in the EU account for more than a quarter of all agricultural pesticide use in the United States, new research has found. According to a peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Environmental Health on June 7th, the US allow the use of 85 pesticides that have been banned or are being phased out in the European Union, China or Brazil. In 2016, US farmers used 322 million pounds of pesticides that are banned in the EU (26.9% of pesticides used in US agriculture), 40 million pounds of pesticides that are banned or being phased out in China (3.3% of total) and 26 million pounds of pesticides banned or phased out in Brazil (2.2%).“It’s appalling the U.S. lags so far behind these major agricultural powers in banning harmful pesticides,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the study. “The fact that we’re still using hundreds of millions of pounds of poisons other nations have wisely rejected as too risky spotlights our dangerously lax approach to phasing out hazardous pesticides.”

The study compared the approval status of more than 500 pesticides used in outdoor applications in the US, EU, Brazil and China. It found that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to allow the use of 85 pesticides for outdoor agricultural applications that are banned or in the process of being completely phased out elsewhere. 72 pesticides were banned in the EU, 17 in Brazil and 11 in China. “Of these 85 pesticides, most are herbicides (58%) followed by insecticides (20%), fungicides/nematicides/bactericides (16%) and those having both insecticide/fungicide activity (6%),” the author writes. Examples for pesticides banned or being phased out in at least two of the three other examined parts of the world are 2,4-DB, bensulide, chloropicrin, dichlobenil, dicrotophos, EPTC, norflurazon, oxytetracycline, paraquat, phorate, streptomycin, terbufos and tribufos. The majority of pesticides banned elsewhere have not appreciably decreased in the US over the past 25 years and almost all have stayed constant or increased over the past 10 years. From 1992 to 2016, the use of four pesticides (chloropicrin, dicrotophos, oxytetracycline and paraquat) significantly increased.

The study concludes that deficiencies in the US pesticide regulatory process are the likely cause of the country failing to ban or phase out pesticides which have been considered harmful by others. The author criticizes that EPA “has all but abandoned its use of non-voluntary cancellations in recent years, making pesticide cancellation in the USA largely an exercise that requires consent by the regulated industry.” As a result, pesticide cancellations in the U.S. are more often economic decisions rather than decisions made to protect human or environmental health. “Bans are the most effective way to prevent exposures to highly hazardous pesticides and can spur the transition to safer alternatives,” said Donley. “A combination of weak laws and the EPA’s broken pesticide regulatory process has allowed the pesticide industry to dictate which pesticides stay in use. That process undermines the safety of agricultural workers and anyone who eats food and drinks water in this country.” (ab)

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