Vermont attorney general sues EPA over a pesticide

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Vermont is suing the Environmental Protection Agency. The state attorney general says it’s an effort to protect the food supply from a toxic chemical.

The Green Mountain State has actually already taken action against that chemical, a pesticide called chlorpyrifos.

In both 2015 and 2016, the EPA came out with a proposal to ban the use of it on food crops, but in March 2017 — just after President Trump took office — the agency changed its tune, saying chlorpyrifos was OK to use on crops.

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan is joining five other states in a new lawsuit to try to get it banned.

“We think this toxic pesticide is harmful,” he said. “That’s what the science says it is when it’s put on food — fruits and vegetables — particularly to infants, young children and pregnant women. The fact of the matter is, a few years ago, the EPA agreed with us.”

The World Health Organization considers chlorpyrifos moderately harmful to humans. The EPA reported in 2016 that it’s the most widely-used conventional insecticide in the U.S. It’s used on dozens of different crops that end up in stores as both fresh produce and canned food.

Looking at the USDA data, they do find chlorpyrifos on some of the commodities making it into Vermont, crops grown out of state or out of the country,” Cary Giguere of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets said. “And I think the one they find it on most within the last couple of years has been asparagus.”

The Vermont Agency of Ag banned the sale of chlorpyrifos last November after farmers and lawmakers asked it to.

Giguere is the director of the agency’s public health and agricultural resource management division. He tells us any chlorpyrifos sold before last November is grandfathered in and is legal to use, but most Vermonters have already stopped using it.

“Primarily, the use in Vermont had dwindled to, sort of, Christmas trees,” he said. “We didn’t seen a whole lot of other use of chlorpyrifos in the state.”

Even though Vermont has already acted on its own, Donovan says the food Vermonters eat can be grown anywhere.

“We have to assume that this is getting into the food source that Vermonters have access to,” he said. “And look, at the end of the day, this isn’t just about Vermont. It’s about everybody. Everybody deserves safe food.”

The best way to avoid exposure to the chemical?

“The answer is easy, and that’s buy local,” Giguere said. “Support your local farmers; buy local produce.”

New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, California and Washington state are the other states taking part in the lawsuit.

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