The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided not to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that is widely used agricultural crops.
The decision not to prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos comes after years of legal wrangling. It represents a victory for the chemical industry and farmers who have lobbied to continue using the substance, arguing it is necessary to protect crops.
However, critics say that the chemical has damage children's brains and should not be permitted for use.
In making its ruling, the E.P.A. rejected claims that the amount of pesticide residue allowed to remain in or on treated foods was unsafe, and said that the science was unsettled.
“E.P.A. has determined that their objections must be denied because the data available are not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable to meet petitioners’ burden to present evidence demonstrating that the tolerances are not safe,” the agency said in a statement.
The agency added that it would continue to review the safety of chlorpyrifos through 2022.
The product, sold under the commercial name Lorsban, has already been banned for household use but remains in widespread use by farmers for more than 50 fruit, nut, cereal and vegetable crops.
The Obama administration decided to ban chlorpyrifos in 2015 after scientific studies produced by the E.P.A. showed the pesticide had the potential to damage brain development in children. But in 2017 Scott Pruitt, then the administrator of the E.P.A., reversed that prohibition, setting off a new round of legal challenges.
Earthjustice, an environmental group, brought a legal challenge against the 2017 decision, and a federal appeals court in April ordered the EPA to make a final ruling on whether to ban chlorpyrifos by this month.
Since then a number of states, including California and New York, have moved to prohibit its use.