February 18, 2020

February 17, 2020

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

Corteva Announces It Will Cease Production of Embattled Insecticide Chlorpyrifos

On February 6, 2020, Corteva Agriscience (Corteva), announced it will discontinue all production of the organophosphate (OP) insecticide chlorpyrifos by the end of the year.  Corteva and its corporate predecessor, Dow AgroSciences, have been the principal global manufacturers of chlorpyrifos.  Corteva announced that its decision to stop selling chlorpyrifos was based entirely on financial considerations.  This announcement came on the same day that Corteva had previously agreed it would end further sales of chlorpyrifos in California, and less than a week after the date the European Union (EU) ended all sales of chlorpyrifos in member states.  These actions followed a number of prior actions taken by other national and state governments to ban or severely restrict chlorpyrifos.  Corteva emphasized in its public statements that the science demonstrates that chlorpyrifos can be safely used, but that the company made a business decision based on the declining markets for the product.  In an interview reported by the Washington Post, Susanne Wasson, Corteva's President for Crop Protection said, “It’s a tough decision for us to make, but we don’t feel like it’s viable going forward.” In other statements, Corteva noted that in the last ten years their share of the global chlorpyrifos market had declined from 75% to less than 20%.

Chlorpyrifos has been registered for use in the U.S. for over 50 years, but has become increasingly controversial in the dozen years since the Pesticide Action Network of North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition in 2007 to cancel all registrations and revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos.  Following a protracted court battle and a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take final administrative action concerning the 2007 petition, EPA proposed near the end of the Obama Administration to revoke all existing tolerances for chlorpyrifos.  A significant basis for this proposal was a controversial decision by a panel of EPA scientists that the default tenfold safety factor established by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) for infants and children, which EPA had previously waived based on studies establishing a threshold for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition, should be reinstated.

The new EPA safety factor determination was based in large measure on epidemiology studies that reported an association between exposure to chlorpyrifos at levels below the presumed threshold for AChE inhibition and adverse neurodevelopmental effects in children.  Many industry scientists disputed the scientific basis for this EPA determination because confounding exposures and methodological biases in the epidemiology studies may have influenced the reported association with neurodevelopmental effects and because the EPA determination made unprecedented use of epidemiology data.  Beyond the effect on chlorpyrifos, the EPA decision will likely continue to be controversial because EPA included a similar safety factor determination for all OP pesticides, even though the mechanism responsible for the reported neurodevelopmental effects attributed to chlorpyrifos has not been identified and the other OP products were not studied in the epidemiology studies.

In the first year of the Trump Administration, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided not to adopt EPA’s previously proposed tolerance revocation and instead to deny formally the 2007 petition, citing unresolved scientific issues.  This reversal of course, however, was not accompanied by any new scientific assessment or by any explicit revision of the prior FQPA safety factor determination.  Later, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) decided to designate chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant, a decision that was noteworthy because it was based primarily on new toxicology studies that DPR stated reported neurodevelopmental effects well below the threshold for AChE inhibition.  DPR deemphasized the epidemiology data relied on in the EPA safety factor determination in its decision.  Although EPA later stated that it would address these new toxicology studies as part of an accelerated registration review process, there were intervening decisions by the EU and by California to ban new sales, which may have contributed to Corteva’s February 6, 2020, decision to cease chlorpyrifos production.

Commentary

The decision by Corteva to cease manufacturing chlorpyrifos reminds us that the decision to continue marketing any chemical substance cannot be based solely on the scientific data, but must also consider the regulatory climate and the economic viability of the product.  For those of us with a long memory, the decision by Corteva is reminiscent of the decision nearly 40 years ago by the Dow Chemical Company to pull the plug on 2,4,5-T and silvex, after Dow had expended millions of dollars and many years of effort to contest an emergency suspension and subsequent cancellation of these herbicides.  Dow made this decision even though it believed that the available data demonstrated the safety of those products.

©2020 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

Lisa Campbell, Bergeson PC, Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act attorney, TSCA lawyer, environmental statutes legal counsel, regulation compliance law
Partner

Lisa Campbell founded Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) with Lynn Bergeson. Today her practice focuses on many aspects of pesticide and chemical regulation. She counsels clients on a wide range of issues pertaining to exposure and risk assessment, risk communication, and related legal and regulatory aspects of pesticide programs under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). She also counsels B&C clients on various chemical-specific programs under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as well as chemicals regulation and...

202-557-3802
Timothy Backstrom, Bergeson Campbell PC, Endangered Species Act attorney, EPA litigation, FIFRA lawyer, Clean Air regulation legal counsel, FOIA law
Of Counsel

Timothy Backstrom spent some 25 years in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of General Counsel (OGC) working on pesticide, toxic substances, and air quality issues before coming to Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®). He offers an extraordinary understanding of how EPA operates, as well as established relationships with many key players at EPA. He brings substantial litigation experience in both federal courts and administrative adjudications. He served for many years as the OGC’s designated administrative law expert and, among many accomplishments, he headed the trial team when EPA intervened in a hearing concerning a request for an exemption from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the northern spotted owl.

Besides insider knowledge of EPA, Mr. Backstrom delivers an unusual depth of expertise on pesticide registration issues and air toxics regulation, and a unique understanding of the EPA program requiring registration and testing of fuels and fuel additives. Having a technical background has allowed Mr. Backstrom to develop significant scientific expertise in toxicology and risk assessment. In the context of pesticide adjudications, he has presented and cross-examined numerous scientific witnesses. For many clients, he has identified additional options or theories that were not previously under consideration to resolve regulatory issues and to advance their business objectives.

202-557-3819
James V. Aidala, Bergeson, Senior Government Affairs Consultant, Toxic Substances Lawyer
Senior Government Affairs Consultant

Jim Aidala, Senior Government Affairs Consultant with Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. is a critical ally for any client addressing chemical policy, legislative, and related issues. He has been intimately involved with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) legislative reauthorization and key regulatory matters for over two decades. Mr. Aidala brings extensive legislative experience on Capitol Hill and past experience as the senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for pesticide...

616-682-9194