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EPA proposes ban on acephate-based pesticides impacting fruit and vegetable farming

EPA proposes ban on acephate-based pesticides impacting fruit and vegetable farming

By Jamie Martin

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a ban on almost all uses of acephate-based pesticides, commonly applied in fruit and vegetable production, to safeguard human health. The proposed ban would exclude only non-food bearing tree injections, deemed non-risky to humans or the environment by the EPA.

This proposal follows public health risk and drinking water assessments published last year, which identified acephate as a significant contributor to various dietary and neurological issues, such as tremors, fatigue, and nausea. U.S. farmers have relied on acephate for decades as a cost-effective means to protect crops like cotton, soybeans, celery, lettuce, and peppers, according to federal data compiled by Earthjustice.

Acephate, one of 18 organophosphate insecticides under the EPA's standard regulation review process, is evaluated for safety every 15 years. Updated guidance for many of these pesticides will be released between 2024 and 2026. The European Union banned acephate over 20 years ago, but U.S. farmers still use it to control aphids and other insects. Research links acephate, a neurotoxicant, to intellectual disabilities in children by interfering with nerve cells.

Licensed agricultural consultant Don Collins expressed concern over the ban, stating it would lead to more frequent use of less effective pesticides, negatively impacting cotton and soybean production in the Mississippi Delta. "The removal of acephate from our insecticide toolbox would be like sending a soldier off to battle without his rifle," Collins commented.

The EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal until June 29 and is open to alternative mitigation options that address the identified risks, allowing for faster protection measures. The pesticide cancellation process can take up to five years, making alternative options a priority for the EPA.

Photo Credit: pexels-aiselin82

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