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Monday, August 3, 2009

EPA bans the toxic pesticide carbofuran after '60 Minutes' report

The Environmental Protection Agency banned domestic or imported foods that contain residue from the pesticide carbofuran late last month in an unusual move that will effectively remove the chemical from the U.S. market.

The pesticide gained national attention in March when it was highlighted by a “60 Minutes” report that described the Kenyan practice of using the chemical to poison lions preying on traditional herders’ cattle. Bottles of the substance retail for around U.S. $2 in Kenya, the report said. Lions who eat the chemical quickly die after their nervous systems shut down.

Carbofuran, sold commonly under the name Furadan, is used extensively as a pesticide in nations that supply foods to the U.S. It’s use in domestic agriculture is limited, said the EPA in its ruling.

Jed Evans from the Georgia Farm Bureau said that farmers in Georgia don’t often use the pesticide because more effective alternatives are available. But, the Alabama Environmental Protection Agency Division Director of Pesticide Management Tony Cofer released statements on July 28 saying that Furadan has been registered and used in Alabama for more than 30 years, according to a story from the Southeast Farm Press.

The Washington Post reported that a million pounds of the chronically toxic substance are used in the U.S. every year, a relatively small amount. EPA toxicology reports also show that over 1,200 pounds of the chemical was released into the air, water, or deposited into landfills in the U.S. 2007.

Though it will soon be off the market, U.S. and international farmers can keep using Furadan on produce for consumption until December 31st of this year.

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