U.S – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has requested to register new uses for the pesticide chlormequat chloride on food crops; a move that if finalized would mark the first-ever approval for using the pesticide on U.S. food.

In greenhouse- and nursery-grown ornamentals, chlormequat chloride is currently approved for use as a plant growth regulator (PGR).

The EPA must set tolerances for or on wheat, triticale, oats, barley, and other crops before registering new uses.

The pesticide will be permitted to be used on minor grains including wheat, barley, and oats to combat the problem of “lodging,” which is the bending over or breaking of stems. Lodging affects grain yield, harvestability, and quality.

The use of chlormequat chloride as a PGR lowers the grain plant’s stem’s height, reducing lodging and potentially increasing grain output.

The chemical offers more flexibility in application time than other PGRs with comparable use patterns, according to EPA, making it easier for small grain producers to utilize.

According to the Federal Insecticide, Rodenticide, and Fungicide Act (FIFRA), the EPA evaluated whether exposures to this substance would have an unreasonably negative impact on human health and the environment before making this proposed registration decision.

The assessment showed that there are no dietary, residential, or aggregate (i.e., combined dietary and residential exposures) problems to be worried about.

EPA’s ecological risk assessment identified no risks of concern to non-target, non-listed aquatic vertebrates that are listed under the Endangered Species Act, aquatic invertebrates, and aquatic and terrestrial plants.

Mitigation measures

To reduce potential dangers that could endanger both occupational employees and animals such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and terrestrial invertebrates, the agency has proposed various mitigation measures.

Some of them include requiring personal protective equipment such as long-sleeve shirts, long pants, socks, shoes, and waterproof or chemical-resistant gloves to address occupational risks and requiring 24-hour restricted entry intervals, including posting signs at all reasonably expected points of worker entry to the treated area to address occupational risks of concern.

In addition, the assessment proposed requiring a mandatory and an advisory spray drift management statement to address ecological risks of concern.

The proposal is available for public comment and will close on May 26, 2023.

EWG contests proposal  

However, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has voiced concern with the EPA’s proposal, pointing out that grains are a mainstay in the American diet and that there is a chance that eating these foods could expose one to the toxin through pesticide residues.

This is especially a concern for children, who are voracious consumers of goods made from grains.

Based on research done on animals, EWG toxicologists claim that chlormequat can impair fetal development and harm the reproductive system.

Furthermore, according to EWG, the pesticide’s use does not pose a threat to food safety because grain crops can be successfully grown without chlormequat.

Despite the fact that chlormequat is currently only permitted for use on ornamental plants in the United States, it is nonetheless present in the country’s food supply as a result of its usage on imported grains, as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) showed in a prior analysis of well-known oat products consumed by kids.

EWG hired a reputable, independent laboratory to evaluate 14 well-known granolas, cereals, and other oat-based products.

Chlormequat was discovered in all but one of the tested products. A total of eleven products had chlormequat levels greater than 30 parts per billion (ppb), the limit that the EWG considers to be safe for children’s health.

EWG has submitted comments to the EPA pleading with the agency to forbid the use of chlormequat on crops grown in the United States.

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