- WASHINGTON - The Environmental
Protection Agency Monday banned one pesticide and sharply restricted another
for use on fruits and vegetables because they endanger the health of children.
- The restrictions failed, however, to halt a threatened
court action by environmental groups.
- "Our extensive reviews show that the current allowable
uses of these two pesticides ... fail to provide the extra measure of protection
for children,'' EPA Administrator Carol Browner said at a news conference.
- "Today's technologies allow our farmers to use safer
alternatives and safer approaches.''
- The restrictions are the result of fears the pesticides
can damage the brain and nervous system, especially in young children.
- Fruit and vegetable growers will have to comply starting
next spring, Browner said.
- The Agriculture Department's No. 2 official joined Browner
in sending a message that fruits and vegetables in stores are safe to eat.
- "I'd like to reemphasize that the nation's food
supply is safe,'' Deputy Agriculture Secretary Richard Rominger said. ''There
is nothing in today's actions that should cause anyone alarm or cause anyone
to avoid consumption of any food.''
- The banned pesticide is methyl parathion, which is commonly
used on apples, peaches, pears, grapes, nectarines, cherries, plums, carrots,
certain peas and beans, tomatoes and other food.
- Restrictions placed on the use of azinphos-methyl, which
is applied on some of the same fruits, depends on the fruit but will include
reducing the concentration and the amount used per acre, officials said.
- Methyl parathion, better known by its commercial name
of Penncap-M, and azinphos-methyl, sold as Guthion, are classified as organophosphates
and were developed from Second World War research into nerve gas weapons.
- Farmers will be allowed to use the banned chemical on
cotton and wheat, where food processing reduces the health risk.
- The EPA announcement did little to appease environmental
groups who have vowed to file a lawsuit against the EPA on Aug. 3 to force
the agency to move faster on related toxic chemicals.
- In a statement released at an earlier news conference,
the groups accused the government of "dragging its feet and caving
to pressure from the pesticide industry.''
- The EPA also has come under fire from farm and chemical
groups who have said the agency has failed to gather enough scientific
data before deciding whether a pesticide is harmful.
- Browner said as part of an agreement with the government,
the four manufacturers of the two pesticides agreed to buy them back from
farmers, who would not be burdened to incur the cost of unused pesticides.