What’s at Stake
After a long battle with Earthjustice teaming up with farmworkers and their advocates, a dangerous insecticide has forever been banished from use.
In 2004, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of farmworker and environmental groups challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow the continued use of azinphos-methyl (AZM), a highly toxic insecticide that attacks the nervous system and that EPA found poses unacceptable risks of poisonings to farmworkers.
After we won a round in court, EPA agreed to consider alternatives to using this poisonous pesticide on apples, pears and other crops and the toll this pesticide takes on workers and communities near the fields. In 2006, EPA decided that the harm to workers and families is so great that all uses of AZM must be phased out by September 30, 2012, and it required reduced usage and additional protections for workers during the phase-out period. The last uses of AZM to be eliminated were on apples, cherries, pears, blueberries, and parsley, and the highest uses occurred in Washington, Oregon, California, Michigan, and New York. The phase-out is complete. All sales stopped in September 2012, and all uses of azinphos-methyl in the United States at the end of September 2013.
Earthjustice Managing Attorney Patti Goldman, who represented the farmworkers, applauded the end of the use of AZM: “This deadly chemical is far too harmful to be used on our food. AZM is off the market, out of the air and out of our food. Getting this result took vigilance on the part of farmworker advocates and the power of holding our government accountable to the law and the evidence of egregious harm to the people who grow our food. But what we have accomplished proves what Margaret Meade so eloquently said: 'Never doubt the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. That is about the only way it has ever happened.'”
California Rural Legal Assistance, Farmworker Justice, and NRDC were co-counsel on this case.
Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reconfirmed that all sales of the pesticide azinphos-methyl (AZM) will be banned after September 30, 2012. AZM is a highly neurotoxic insecticide that attacks the human brain and nervous system. However, while AZM can no longer be sold or distributed, stocks purchased prior to that time can be used up until September 30, 2013 due to growers having a backlog of the pesticide due to unusual weather patterns, the EPA said.