Press Statement on MD Dept of Agriculture’s Flawed Proposal to Draft Chlorpyrifos Regulations

For Immediate Release

Feb. 19, 2020
 Contact: Dawn Stoltzfus, The Hatcher Group, 410-267-4153,
Ruth Berlin, Maryland Pesticide Education Network, 410-693-7319,

(Annapolis, MD) – The Smart on Pesticides Coalition issued the following joint press statement today in response to the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s intent to convene stakeholders and draft regulations for a “phase out of the regular use of chlorpyrifos,” a toxic, nerve-agent pesticide that has been found to damage children’s brain development, contaminate waterways and injure wildlife.

“The Hogan Administration’s sudden change of heart in favor of considering regulating the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos is surprising, after three years of active opposition to legislation that would ban it. The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s proposal is not acceptable. MDA is simply not equipped financially or with expertise to develop and defend a regulation banning chlorpyrifos.  

There would be serious flaws with any regulatory process led by MDA. Draft regulations could get stuck for months and years, and opponents could file lawsuits challenging the regulation. MDA’s potential ‘phase out’ of some uses of chlorpyrifos would likely allow for numerous delays, exemptions, and loopholes resulting in continued exposure of this toxic chemical.

The legislation that Maryland lawmakers have been working to pass would provide certainty about when, where, and how Maryland would finally ban chlorpyrifos. No regulatory attempt by MDA would provide such certainty or an immediate ban.

We invite the Hogan Administration to support SB 300/HB 229, which would ban chlorpyrifos by law and ensure that this pesticide is removed from farms, produce, and golf courses expeditiously. The rules, as a result of passing a Maryland law, would be clear and predictable and less vulnerable to legal challenges. 

Chlorpyrifos must be fully banned as quickly as possible – it’s been five years since EPA scientists recommended a full, no-exemptions ban, due to their determination that there is no safe level of exposure or safe method of application for this brain-damaging pesticide linked to learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and other neurological and developmental impacts.”

Chlorpyrifos is linked to neurodevelopmental issues, autism and cancer in children, as well as breast cancer in pre-menopausal women. It is also a major concern for the health of aquatic life and the Chesapeake Bay and harms pollinators. In 2015, after extensive study spanning two decades, EPA scientists confirmed that chlorpyrifos cannot be considered safe at any detectible level and ruled that the pesticide be banned. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration reversed that decision.
California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, which took regulatory action to ban chlorpyrifos, employs nearly 400 staff with a budget of over $110 million annually – in comparison, MDA’s Office of Plant Industries and Pest Management has 14 positions and a $1.2 million annual budget. MDA has lost more than 20 percent of its workforce, and it has also not been able to enforce the 2018 ban on consumer use of neonicotinoids – consumers continue to find it on store shelves.
Read a fact sheet about SB 300/HB 229 here.

The Smart on Pesticides Maryland coalition, spearheaded by the Maryland Pesticide Education Network, works to protect Marylanders and the natural systems we depend upon from the toxic impacts of pesticides. The coalition includes 105 organizations, and institutions representing communities, businesses, health care providers, farmers, environmentalists, waterkeepers, interfaith congregants as well as environmental justice, public health and wildlife advocates.