The negative health and environmental impacts of pesticide use and exposure are well established: They range from increased cancer risk, to damage to children’s brains and nervous systems, to lower sperm counts, to acute effects like nausea, dizziness and vomiting. And these toxic pesticides, like the herbicide atrazine, routinely find their way into the drinking water of millions of Americans every year.
But a series of provisions in the House Agriculture Committee’s proposed farm bill would roll back vital safeguards intended to protect farmworkers, public health and the environment from toxic pesticides.
Here are five provisions in the House farm bill that would weaken pesticide protections:
- Preempting Local Pesticide Restrictions – Section 9101 would prevent cities, counties and communities from restricting certain uses of pesticides even if they deem restrictions necessary for protecting children's health or the environment. For example, this provision would prevent a city or county from restricting chlorpyrifos – an insecticide so dangerous it was slated to be banned by the Environmental Protection Agency – from being sprayed near schools or hospitals.
- Reversing Course on Endangered Species Protections – Section 9111 would allow the EPA to approve pesticides without going through the current consultation process with expert wildlife agencies to assess to how they would impact hundreds of threatened or endangered species, as currently required under the Endangered Species Act.
- Rolling Back Clean Water Act Protections – Sections 9117 and 9118 would allow farmers to spray pesticides into water – including drinking water sources – without obtaining a permit under the Clean Water Act, as currently required by law.
- Allowing New Pesticide Approvals Without Finalizing Safety Rules – Section 9119 reauthorizes the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, which provides funding for EPA pesticide reviews, without finalizing rules designed to protect farmers and farmworkers, as Sen. Tom Udall and others have rightly demanded.
- Weakening Restrictions on Methyl Bromide – Section 9121 would weaken restrictions on methyl bromide, a highly toxic fumigant that is being phased out because it depletes the ozone layer.