The European Food Safety Agency has called for a ban on a pesticide widely used on a wide variety of crops including apples, oranges, strawberries, amid growing evidence of its damaging effects on children’s brain development.

Last week, the EFSA acknowledged in a public statement that chlorpyrifos is harmful to human health and does not meet the criteria for renewal on the European market.

This was welcomed by a coalition of NGOs including HEAL, SumOfUs, PAN Europe, PAN Germany and Générations Futures, a first step in order to get chlorpyrifos banned as soon as possible.

Citing a significant body of scientific evidence, the European agency said: “the pesticide chlorpyrifos does not meet the criteria required by legislation for the renewal of its approval in the European Union” – a statement which is valid for both forms of chlorpyrifos-ethyl and -methyl.

EFSA identified concerns about possible genotoxic effects as well as neurological effects during development, supported by epidemiological data indicating effects in children.

This statement comes in response to a request from the European Commission on the available results of the human health assessment as EFSA is still performing the peer-review of the renewal dossier of chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl.

The deadline for a decision on the renewal of both active substances is 31 January 2020. The European Commission is reported to be supportive of a ban of chlorpyrifos, which civil society groups have urgedthe European authorities and governments to support.

More than 212,000 people have signed a petition asking European decision makers to not approve the relicensing of chlorpyrifos, especially due to its harmful effects on children’s brain development.

“Our coalition now urges the European Commission and national governments to follow EFSA’s lead and support a full ban of chlorpyrifos in both -ethyl and -methyl forms as soon as possible,” EFSA said.

“Considering the amount of scientific evidence already available on chlorpyrifos’ harm for health – especially for children – European citizens would be shocked and disappointed if chlorpyrifos would be granted another year of approval.”