For the third year in a row, a number of Maryland delegates are sponsoring a bill that would ban the use of a pesticide that some argue causes harm to young children.
The General Assembly bill to ban chlorpyrifos was first read on Jan. 16 and would apply to insecticides with the chlorpyrifos in them as well as seeds that have been treated with it.
The bill would also require that the Department of Agriculture provide “integrated pest management” education and assistance to pesticide applicators, certified crop advisers and farmers. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, integrated pest management is “an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices.”
Chlorpyrifos can be used for both agricultural and non-agricultural purposes.
Examples of agricultural uses include spraying row crops and fruit trees, while examples of nonagricultural uses include treating golf courses and turf.
Colby Ferguson, government relations director at the Maryland Farm Bureau, said the bill would be detrimental to farmers.
“It’s only used when we have to have it,” he said.
Ferguson also said chlorpyrifos use is already restricted federally and that banning it in the state could put Maryland farmers at a disadvantage when it comes to eliminating pests.
“This is a very specific tool in a farmer’s toolbox that not every farmer uses,” he said. “It’s very targeted.”
Ferguson also said the science behind the bill is based on an outdated study that was conducted before the pesticide was restricted, so its exposure to people was much greater at the time.
“Taking the tool out of the toolbox is not going to help Maryland [residents] because it’s not affecting them now, so all you’re doing is hurting the farmer,” he said.
In specific cases such as foliar spraying for vegetables, there are alternatives, but they tend to be much more expensive and less effective. And in the case of orchard owners who need to combat pests like the peachtree borer, Ferguson said there are no alternatives.
A similar bill was filed last year that made it to the state Senate and died in committee. In 2018, a chlorpyrifos ban bill was also introduced and later withdrawn.
The 2019 Fiscal and Policy Note stated that banning the use of the pesticide was “expected to have a meaningful impact on at least some small businesses in the State.”
There are conflicting findings as to the danger of the pesticide and specifically its toxicity to young children and women of childbearing age.
In August 2018, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals told the EPA it had 60 days to ban chlorpyrifos after non-governmental organizations signed a petition to ban the pesticide in food use in 2007 and later filed a lawsuit against the EPA based on the delay in responding to the petition.
The ruling was effectively overturned by the Department of Justice in April 2019 and the EPA was told that it had 90 days to make a decision about banning the pesticide.
Hawaii, New York and California all have some type of chlorpyrifos ban.
If passed, the bill would take effect on Oct. 1, 2020.