Fenamiphos: What it is and Why it Should Not Be In Your Food

By: Alexandria M. Crawley, Staff Member

Chemically and genetically enhanced foods are becoming increasingly more common. However, with this increase in biotechnology also comes an increase in public awareness and concern. Perhaps it is this heightened public concern that has prompted the EPA to request data on fenamiphos, an organophosphate pesticide that the EPA currently tolerates in residual amounts on imported foods.[1]

The EPA first evaluated the risk of fenamiphos in 2002, when it decided to phase out the amount tolerated in water but to allow its presence in food.[2] However, the Food Quality Protection Act allows the EPA to continue to monitor the risk and adjust tolerance levels as research and technology advance.[3]The EPA considered revoking the tolerance of fenamiphos in food in 2008, but ultimately rejected the idea because the proposal, which was brought by the American Birds Conservatory, was not related to food safety. [4]

Though there are certainly benefits to the use of pesticides, the circumstances surrounding fenamiphos should make the EPA very reluctant to continue tolerating it on food imports. First, the decision to phase out the toxin in water sources came as a result of its sole producer, Bayer Corporation, withdrawing its registration with the EPA rather than continuing research.[5] Though it is perhaps possible that Bayer simply did not have the resources to pursue this research, it seems more likely that it anticipated that the research would be either futile or unfavorable.

Another questionable fact is that in 2008 the EPA considered phasing out fenamiphos residue on domestic food.[6] It seems that if the EPA distinguished between domestic and imported foods, then the EPA was sacrificing health for economics. This is tantamount to a decision that the relationship between the United States and its importers was more important than the physical health of Americans. Otherwise, it would seem that if the substance was banned on domestic food, it would be banned on imported food as well.

Finally, there is plenty of research that suggests that no amount of fenamiphos should be tolerated. The EPA itself states that limited exposure can cause “nausea, dizziness, and confusion,” while greater exposure could potentially cause death.[7] However, other research suggests that organophosphates in foods are linked to even more conditions, such as ADHD in children.[8] If fenamiphos is indeed linked to such conditions, it seems rather irresponsible to promote the consumption of fresh produce as long as fenamiphos residue is being allowed.

The EPA plans to take data and comments on fenamiphos through October 31, 2011, with an additional 90 day window to follow.[9] Environmental researchers and other individuals and groups should take advantage of this period to make the EPA aware of new research that will enable it to consider and reevaluate its toleration of fenamiphos in light of its harmful effects.

[1] Avery Fellow, EPA to Request Data to Support Allowing Import of Foods with Residues of Fenamiphos, 35 Chem. Reg. Rep. Online (BNA) 870 (Sept. 12, 2011), available athttp://news.bna.com/chln/CHLNWB/split_display.adp?fedfid=22687919&vname=chenotallissues&fn=22687919&jd=crr_35_870&split=0; Fenamiphos; Proposed Data Call-In Order for Pesticide Tolerance, 76 Fed. Reg. 54,185 (proposed Aug. 31, 2011) (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. pt. 180.

[2] Fenamiphos Facts, U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency,http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/fenamiphos_ired_fs.htm (last updated Sept. 12, 2011).

[3] Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-170, 110 Stat. 1513 (1996).

[4] Alan Kovski, EPA Refuses to Revoke Tolerances for Pesticide Residues on Imported Foods, 35 Chem. Reg. Rep. Online (BNA) 803 (Aug. 15, 2011), available athttp://news.bna.com/chln/CHLNWB/split_display.adp?fedfid=21765723&vname=chenotallissues&fn=21765723&jd=crr_35_803&split=0; 2, 4-D Bensulide, DCPA, Desmedipham, Dimethoate, Fenamiphos, Phorate, Sethoxydim, Terbufos, and Tetrachlorvinphos; Proposed Tolerance Actions 73 Fed. Reg. 6867 (proposed Feb. 6, 2008) (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. 180).

[5] Fenamiphos Facts, supra note 2.

[6] Fenamiphos Facts, supra note 2.

[7] Fenamiphos Facts, supra note 2.

[8] Leah Zerbe, Pesticides in Food Linked to ADHD in Kids MSNBC (Sept. 11, 2011 9:53 AM),http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44260583/s/health-nchildrens_health/?gt1=43001.

[9] Avery, supra note 1