Apparently the Geneva Convention doesn’t protect against use in domestic agriculture.
Researchers who recently examined studies sponsored by Dow Chemical and used by the EPA to approve chlorpyrifos, a type of insecticide, found inaccuracies in what the company reported to the agency. Worse, there is also evidence that EPA scientists pointed out these failings to agency officials, but were ignored. It is another example of industry using the power of the federal government to put profits before public health.
The researchers found that the lab used a two percent cut off to determine what was “statistically significant” through most of the study, instead of the customary 5 percent—meaning it would be more likely that exposure to chlorpyrifos would appear safe. The rat studies submitted to the EPA also did not model human exposure and potential brain impacts, among other failures.
To make matters worse, it appears that agency officials were warned by EPA toxicologists of the study’s problems. A memo sent to EPA management said that “The study was graded unacceptable due to an inadequate presentation of the statistical data analysis.”
Keep in mind, too, that the EPA is aware of evidence that found exposure to chlorpyrifos caused measurable differences in children’s brain function, on average dropping their IQs a few points. Some research has linked the pesticides to autism and other brain disorders. There’s also evidence to suggest that some children are more vulnerable to the chemicals than others due to their genetic makeup. These health effects should come as no surprise when we consider that chlorpyrifos were developed as a nerve gas during World War II by the Nazis, though they weren’t used in battle. Chemical weapons were prohibited by the Geneva Convention after WWI—so the chemical is too inhumane to use in war, but A-OK for our food, according to the government’s thinking.
The EPA is currently in the midst of a legal battle—to keep chlorpyrifos on the market. In August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to ban the chemical; the EPA has appealed the decision. It looks like the EPA will fight tooth and nail for you—if you’re one of the largest chemical companies in the world.
This is part of a much larger problem. To evaluate pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides, the EPA relies on industry-sponsored studies that are supposed to follow agency guidelines. This clearly invites industry to design studies or manipulate the data to get the results they want. Additionally, industry studies are rarely available for peer-review because companies claim they contain confidential business information. Chemical companies are also known to sit on panels that advise regulators: a representative of DowDuPont served on the Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee to the EPA, for example. It seems clear that the deck is stacked in favor of industry and against public health.
Stories like this show who the EPA really works for in our crony capitalist system.
Action Alert! Write to Congress and the EPA, telling them to ban chlorpyrifos. Please send your message immediately.
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