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Angela Logomasini - Pesticide Regulation Overview

Angela Logomasini - Pesticide Regulation Overview

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Published by: Competitive Enterprise Institute on Dec 07, 2010
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202-331-1010 www.cei.org Competitive Enterprise Institute
Pesticide residues found on domestic andimported produce pose little, if any, risk topublic health, particularly compared with theenormous public health benefits of pesticideuse.
However, for more than a decade, federalpesticide policies have placed in jeopardy theability to address the greater risks associatedwith insects and other pests. Applying federal
1. According to one National Research Council report,“The great majority of individual naturally occurring andsynthetic chemicals in the diet appear to be present atlevels below which any significant adverse biological ef-fect is likely, and so low that they are unlikely to pose anyappreciable cancer risk.” See Committee on ComparativeToxicity of Naturally Occurring Carcinogens, Board onEnvironmental Studies and Toxicology, Commission onLife Sciences, National Research Council,
Carcinogensand Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet 
(Washington,DC: National Academies Press, 1996), 336–37.
law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) has banned numerous pesticides that areboth safe and useful for farming, home pestcontrol, and other public health purposes.
Statutory Scheme
The EPA regulates pesticides under threelaws:
Federal Food Drugs and Cosmetics Act
The FFDCA is the law underwhich the EPA sets tolerances for pesticides.The EPA can essentially ban a pesticide bynot setting a tolerance—the amount of pes-ticide residue that is allowed to legally re-main on food. The Agricultural MarketingService, an agency of the U.S. Department
Pesticide Regulation Overview
 Angela Logomasini
The Environmental SourceCompetitive Enterprise Institute www.cei.org 202-331-1010
of Agriculture (USDA), is responsible formonitoring residue levels in or on food. TheU.S. Department of Health and Human Ser-vice’s Food and Drug Administration usesthis information to enforce tolerances onimported and domestically produced foodin interstate commerce. The USDA’s FoodSafety Inspection Service enforces tolerancesfor meat, poultry, and some egg products.
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Roden-
ticide Act (FIFRA).
To sell a pesticide, acompany must also register it with the EPAunder FIFRA. For pesticides used on food,the EPA can register uses only for pesticidesthat have a tolerance. Pesticide registrantsmust register and gain EPA approval of their products as well as for each specificuse (i.e., use indoors as a bug spray requiresone registration and use outdoors for a spe-cific crop requires another). The EPA mustreview registered pesticides on a 15-yearcycle. To gain registration, applicants mustsubmit scientific data and research demon-strating that the products pose minimal risk.The EPA can limit uses by denying registra-tion for such uses.
Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).
TheFQPA amended the first two laws. Detailson these changes follow.
Brief History of Pesticide Regulationand Legislation
Before 1996, the FFDCA used two stan-dards for setting tolerances. One standard al-lowed the EPA to regulate pesticide residues onraw produce using a cost-benefit approach. Theagency could weigh the risks of using the pesti-cides versus the risks of not having them to helpmaintain the food supply. Under that legisla-tive authority, the EPA applied what it called a“negligible risk” standard, allowing produce tocontain pesticide residues that did not exceed aone-in-a-million cancer risk.However, the FFDCA set a separate stan-dard for pesticide residues found in processedfood. It applied the “Delaney Clause,” whichprohibited the addition to food of any sub-stance that caused cancer in laboratory animals.The Delaney Clause essentially set a zero-riskstandard. It applied to pesticides used directlyor indirectly in processed food. It also appliedto pesticide residues found on raw agriculturalproducts that were used in processed food, if the pesticide became more concentrated duringprocessing.As science became able to detect increas-ingly lower levels of residues, the DelaneyClause essentially demanded that the EPA banmany pesticides. In addition, having separatestandards for raw produce and processed foodcreated perverse effects, which the NationalResearch Council (NRC)
noted could actuallyreduce safety. In a 1987 report,
Regulating Pes-ticides in Food: The Delaney Paradox
, the NRChighlighted problems with the existing policy.
 The NRC raised concerns about alternative pestcontrol practices that could pose greater risksor could prove inadequate to maintain foodsupplies and control disease-carrying pests. TheNRC called on Congress to address this issue,suggesting that it set a single standard for rawand processed foods.In 1988, the EPA began applying the neg-ligible risk standard to processed foods with-out legislative authorization. But in 1992,environmental groups succeeded in suing the
2. The NRC is an affiliate of the National Academy of Sciences.3. Board on Agriculture, National Research Council,
Regulating Pesticides in Food: The Delaney Paradox
 (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 1987).
Pesticide Regulation202-331-1010 www.cei.org Competitive Enterprise Institute
agency for not applying the Delaney Clause.A federal court held that the agency was ob-ligated to apply the Delaney Clause to pro-cessed food.
 Hence, for those who used and producedpesticide products, reforming the law becamean urgent matter. With numerous bans likely,many crops—and ultimately our food supply—would be placed in jeopardy. In addition, con-cerns mounted about the increasing difficultyassociated with controlling rising infectiousdiseases, carried by insects and other pests.
 Meanwhile, environmental groups workedto make the law more stringent. Their effortswere bolstered by a 1993 NRC report and themedia hype that followed. The report,
Pesticidesin the Diets of Infants and Children
, noted thatchildren might be more susceptible to pesticidesand hence they faced greater risks.
Despitemedia hype suggesting the contrary, the studydid not conclude that existing exposures wereunsafe for children. Specifically, the study notedthat “exposures occurring earlier in life can leadto greater or lower risk of chronic toxic effectssuch as cancer than exposures occurring later inlife.”
Just to be safe, the report recommendedthat EPA use a 10-fold safety factor when set-ting pesticide regulations.
Les v. Reilly
, 968 F.2nd 985 (9th Cir. 1992), cert.denied, 113 U.S. 1361 (1993).5. See Joshua Lederberg, Robert E. Shope, and StanleyC. Oaks Jr., eds.
 , Emerging Infections: Microbial Threatsto Health in the United States
(Washington, DC: Na-tional Academies Press, 1992), especially 163–67, http:// www.nap.edu/books/0309047412/html/index.html.6. Committee on Pesticides in the Diets of Infants andChildren, National Research Council,
Pesticides in theDiets of Infants and Children
(Washington, DC: Na-tional Academies Press, 1993).7. Ibid., 359.
Food Quality Protection Act Reforms
The FQPA attempts to address the conflict-ing standards within the first two pesticidelaws. The FQPA changed the standard for set-ting tolerances. It applies a single standard forall pesticide uses and requires the EPA to show“reasonable certainty that no harm will resultfrom aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemi-cal residue, including all anticipated dietary ex-posures and all other exposures for which thereis reliable information.
The FQPA mandatedthat the EPA apply this standard to all pesticideregistrations, new and old. Accordingly, theEPA is working to reregister the thousands of pesticides registered before the passage of theFQPA.The bill was supported unanimously by bothhouses of Congress and lauded by members of agricultural states and farm interests. Many be-lieved that it would dramatically improve pes-ticide approvals. But rather than solving theseproblems, the FQPA gave vital ground to thosepushing for more stringent regulation. Notsurprisingly, environmental groups supportedthe FQPA because they believed that it wouldprove even more stringent and would lead tomany pesticide bans in the future.
 Following the advice of 
Pesticides in the Di-ets of Infants and Children
, the reform included
8. 21 USC § 346a(b)(2)(A)(ii).9. After passage of the FQPA, Competitive EnterpriseInstitute’s Jonathan Tolman noted in the
Wall Street  Journal 
that the 1996 law was more stringent thanthe old law and would lead to bans. A response by theNatural Resources Defense Council’s Albert Meyerhoff concurred that the law was more stringent and would en-able environmental groups to pursue bans. See JonathanTolman, “The Real Pests Aren’t in the Food,”
Wall Street  Journal 
, September 18, 1996, A18, and Albert H. Mey-erhoff, “Law Makes Food Safer for Children,” Letters tothe Editor,
Wall Street Journal 
, October 7, 1996, A23.

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