Freedonia Analyst Weighs in on Pesticides and the EPA

Pesticides are one of the most hotly debated topics among environmental and agricultural scientists today, and the EPA’s March 29, 2017 decision to continue to allow the use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos in agriculture is proving to be controversial.  Under the leadership of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the EPA is permitting the continued use of chlorpyrifos in agriculture because it believes the science linking the insecticide to neurologic and developmental disorders is not sound.  The EPA’s decision means that the use of chlorpyrifos will not be back up for review until 2022. 

The decision arrived a decade after the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos in agriculture and commercial uses, and 16 years after chlorpyrifos was banned in household applications.  Following the petition filed by PANNA and NRDC in 2007, the EPA opened a scientific inquiry into the possible health effects of chlorpyrifos. 

PANNA and NRDC filed an appeal on April 5, 2017 that would force the EPA to follow through with the Obama administration’s 2015 recommendation that chlorpyrifos be banned for use on all food products.

Chlorpyrifos, a member of the organophosphate family of insecticides has been one of the most commonly used insecticides in agriculture since the 1960s, and is most commonly known by its brand names Dursban and Lorsban, marketed by Dow Agrosciences.  The insecticide is registered for use on more than 50 different crops in the US.

Although use of organophosphate insecticides in agricultural is expected to slowly decline going forward, chlorpyrifos use is now projected to remain flat through 2021.  “Despite the possible health effects of chlorpyrifos, it is still a trusted and effective weapon against insect pests,” says Freedonia Group industry analyst Emily Park.  “Additionally, because chlorpyrifos is classified as a Restricted Use Pesticide by the EPA, it can only be applied by licensed pesticide applicators, which should limit risks of unnecessary exposure.  As long as it’s still registered for use in the US, chlorpyrifos will remain an important product for suppliers of agricultural insecticides.”

Park adds that although the EPA has declined to ban chlorpyrifos for the time being, negative public perception may encourage some farmers to transition to newer insecticides that are proven to be less hazardous to human and environmental health.  Regardless of chlorpyrifos’ registration status going forward, safer insecticides such as pyrethroids are expected to show the strongest growth prospects through 2021 and beyond.

Emily Park is an Industry Analyst at The Freedonia Group and recently authored industry studies Agricultural Pesticide Market in the US and Pesticide Adjuvant Market in the US.