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Pesticide scrutinized for affecting child brain development could be banned

A widely used pesticide could be banned in Minnesota, out of concern that exposure can stunt child brain development.

HF670, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Morrison (DFL-Deephaven), would ban all sales and application of chlorpyrifos, six years after a nationwide ban was proposed under former President Barack Obama. Former President Donald Trump’s administration decided not to pursue the ban, concluding that further study of the pesticide's effects on brain development was needed.

On Monday, the bill was laid over for possible omnibus inclusion by the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee. Its companion, SF2017, is sponsored by Sen. D. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls) and awaits action by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee.

"It's unconscionable that we as a country are ignoring clear science and putting the health and safety of our children at risk," said Rep. Todd Lippert (DFL-Northfield).

Chlorpyrifos is used on crops such as soybeans, on golf courses and in greenhouses.

It has been illegal to sell chlorpyrifos for most residential uses in the U.S. since 2001. Since then, studies have shown a clearer link between exposure and cognitive delays.

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency moved to ban the pesticide, but the agency reversed course under Trump. The agency is currently reviewing the pesticide and plans to release its findings by Oct. 1, 2022.

In written testimony, Megan Horton, an associate professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said even low-level chlorpyrifos exposure can negatively affect children.

"We have more than enough scientific evidence to ban chlorpyrifos, and have known enough for over 20 years," wrote Emily Marquez, a scientist with the Pesticide Action Network.

But farmers and industry groups say there are few pesticides that work as well as chlorpyrifos and that farmers are careful when applying it.

They also say any decision by lawmakers should wait until the federal review is finished.

"The decision to register a particular chemical for use is made after years of rigorous testing," wrote Christian Kiel, legislative liaison for the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association. "Allowing elected politicians to second guess those decisions based on the direction of the current political winds is irresponsible and could cause great uncertainty for our members."

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