Chlorpyrifos - The poison used in agriculture

The Federal Office for the Environment warns that the insecticide is toxic to humans and animals, especially to amphibians, and that there is a suspicion of hormone-active effects. Researchers warned years ago of permanent damage to the brain of unborn children.

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Everyday poison in agriculture

Chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl were introduced to the market in the 1960s. For decades, potatoes, vegetables, berries and grapes were sprayed with these products. Especially citrus fruits are affected. Only organically certified citrus fruits are not sprayed with conventional pesticides like Chlorpyrifos. However, since most fruits are imported from abroad, Chlorpyrifos sprayed citrus fruits go everywhere. They are among the most commonly used insecticides. In Switzerland, the active ingredients have been released into the environment in quantities of 10’000 to 15’000 kilograms per year over the last five years.

A neurotoxin

The scientific basis is undeniable: chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl have a similar structure to certain chemical warfare agents (nerve gases). They are extremely toxic to birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, insects and especially to all kinds of bees and bumblebees. The active ingredients also kill life in the soil and damage our own nutritional basis. In addition, the substances are very dangerous for humans: Scientists have proven that the active ingredient can cause brain damage in the unborn child during pregnancy. Even in small doses, Chlorpyrifos damages the brain of the unborn child and is therefore associated with low IQ and autism. In addition, the pesticide is considered a trigger for dangerous diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's disease and various hormonal and metabolic disorders.

The environmental organisations Greenpeace and WWF Switzerland have campaigned for a ban on chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl.

They have demanded that all pesticides containing these two highly dangerous active ingredients should no longer be released into the environment and should be withdrawn from the market immediately. The withdrawal is right and welcome. In the European Union, the authorisation was extended until 31 January 2020. In Switzerland, products containing chlorpyrifos are approved for use in arable farming, fruit growing and viticulture. In May 2019, the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) decided to withdraw the approval of all plant protection products containing the active ingredients chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl and to gradually withdraw them from the market; however, the decision is not yet legally binding. The Federal Administrative Court confirmed that eight complaints had been received in this connection.


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