June 14, 2006 – The Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from environment and worker groups, has announced intentions to phase out a hazardous pesticide, but the chemical will remain in use for another three or four seasons.
Known commercially as Guthion, the compound azinphos-methyl (AZM) is widely considered dangerous to farmworkers and surrounding ecosystems. The EPA has acknowledged these hazards but said a gradual phase-out is necessary to give growers time to adjust to alternatives.
If approved, the proposed ban would not go into affect for some growers until 2010, spurring the pesticideâ€™s opponents to accuse the EPA of delaying the inevitable.
Under the EPAâ€™s phase-out, AZM use on almonds, brussels spouts, pistachios, and walnuts would be banned by 2007; its application to apples, blueberries, cherries, parsley and pears would optionally continue for three additional years.
Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, said AZM "should have been banned long ago." In a press statement about the EPAâ€™s proposed phase-out timeline, Sass said, "The EPA has been dragging its feet for years to protect Americans from outdated, dangerous chemicals that would never have been approved if the laws we have now were in place years ago."
In 2003, the EPA agreed to issue a rule on the pesticide, after settling a legal challenge brought by California Rural Legal Assistance, Earthjustice, Farmworker Justice and NRDC on behalf of Beyond Pesticides, Frente Indigena Oaxaquena Binacional, Pineros Y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Sea Mar Community Health Center and United Farm Workers of America.
The agency is accepting public comments on its proposal until August 8.