Dimethoate is an insecticide commonly used on crops such as cherries as a protection barrier to keep insects at bay. However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has advised European Union (EU) policymakers in a new report that the chemical could be harmful to humans.

France requested the report after raising concerns about dimethoate and its use for preventing fruit flies from damaging cherry crops. In fact, France banned dimeothoate-based pesticides for use on cherries in February, a decision that was met with backlash from farmers who claim there is no suitable alternative.

Now, the report is asking for all of Europe to join France in completely banning dimethoate, a chemical that is also regularly found in products used on various fruits and vegetables, not just cherries.

While the EFSA does agree that there is a lack of information available at this time, the agency could not exclude “a potential long-term consumer health risk resulting from residues". EFSA is particularly concerned about dimethoate’s toxicity, as well as the fact that some previous U.S. research points to a possible cancer link.

In a statement issued this week, French government officials publicly pushed for measures to prevent both the use of dimethoate products and the marketing of cherries grown using the chemical.

The European Commission plans to analyze the report further. The EU member states will convene later this week to debate the issue.

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