Missouri farmers defend chemical in common insecticide that could be banned
CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Federal judges have ordered the EPA to ban a dangerous, popular insecticide, but farmers in Southeast Missouri who use the chemical are coming to it's defense.
The chemical is called chlorpyrifos and the neurotoxin is the main ingredient in bug killers like Lorsban.
Last week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled "there was no justification" for the EPA to allow any traces of the chemical to be left on food citing scientific research that it can be harmful to children.
But John Schoen, a dairy farmer in North Cape Girardeau County says the decision could negatively impact his farm and the products he produces.
Schoen says he uses Lorsban as a long-lasting cost-effective way to protect his crops, which he feeds to his livestock.
"If you do not spray alfalfa with an insecticide like chlorpyrifos you are going to have no crop," Schoen said. "It will eat it down to nothing. All you will have is stems."
If the EPA takes the chemical away, Schoen says its replacement could cost more and not be as effective at killing bugs, and could even hit the consumers pocketbook.
"If this thing keeps up with them degrading these chemicals and taking them off the market, the price of food eventually will come up because farmers are not going to be able to produce as efficiently as what they are now," he said.
David Wichern is location manager at the MFA in Jackson and has been in agriculture retail for over 25 years.
Wichern said the ban is disappointing because the dangers of the chemical has been regulated for years, is not sold over-the-counter, and has to be applied and stored safely.
"There is some basis in picking this chemistry over others because of its persistency in the environment," Wichern said. "But if used correctly it is very valuable for the American producer to have this as a tool in their tool box."
Wichern believes the chemical is more dangerous to pickers who work on vegetable farms, but says that is not common on farms that use the insecticide in our area.
"Here our primary crops being alfalfa, soybeans and cotton, we don't have that human contact. Here it's more mechanical," he said. "In tractors, they are putting these air filtration devices in these cabs to help protect the drivers that are doing the spraying."
Wichern says a half dozen insecticides use chlorpyrifos and says getting rid of it will limit a farmers options.
"I think the biggest threat is a regulation creep. You take this product off what is next?"
The EPA has 60 days to go through with banning the insecticide or challenge the decision by petitioning the supreme court.
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