Insecticide Ruling Will Handicap Farmers

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Curtailing use of two popular insecticides will limit Tennessee farmers’ arsenals against pests that threaten their crops, a University of Tennessee fruit specialist said Friday.

An Environmental Protection Agency ruling restricting use of methyl parathion or azinphos methyl will make it harder to control pests that damage fruits and some vegetables, Dr. David Lockwood of UT’s Agricultural Extension Service said.

EPA administrator Carol Browner announced earlier this week an agreement with manufacturers to stop the sale of methyl parathion and severely restrict the use of azinphos methyl, which are known as organophosphates.

The two insecticides are used on tree fruits such as apples, peaches and pears and on beans and carrots.

Lockwood said growers will have to alter their spraying programs. Farmers alternate pesticides to control a broader range of pests and to prevent insects from building up resistance to one pesticide.

“Loss or serious restrictions on the use of these materials will limit options for alternating pesticides and could compromise the grower’s ability to pursue an effective integrated pest-management program,” he said.

The pesticides are used to control codling moths, oriental fruit moths and stink bugs, Lockwood said. The moths destroy fruit and stink bugs damage it.

Under a mandate from Congress, EPA is evaluating the safety of pesticides used on fruits and vegetables that children regularly consume.

Should the agency outlaw all organophosphates, growers would have big problems keeping pests out of their orchards and fields, Lockwood said.

“Ruling out all organophosphates would leave us without alternatives, and that is dangerous,” he said.