PESTICIDE COALITION TRIES TO BLUNT REGULATION
- Washington Post George Lardner Jr. and Joby Warrick
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59369-2000May12.html When Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) introduced the Regulatory Fairness and Openness Act of 1999, he was cited as saying it was needed to improve the process of regulating potentially dangerous pesticides. Pombo’s colleagues have since rallied to his cause, with a majority of the House and 38 senators signing on to the legislation. But, unknown outside the small circle of those involved in the drafting process, much of the text of the bill was, the story says, written not on Capitol Hill but in Arlington, by a consulting firm working for a coalition of pesticide manufacturers, agricultural organizations and food processors. Many of those at the firm previously worked on pesticide regulation at the Environmental Protection Agency. The story says that the legislation would make it more difficult for federal regulators to restrict existing pesticides while giving manufacturers broad leeway to introduce new ones. Pombo and his allies say his measure deals only with "process" and does not change any of the laudable goals or "basic structure" of a sweeping food safety law passed unanimously by Congress four years ago. Critics say it would effectively undo the protections put in place in 1996. No immediate hearings are planned. The large number of congressional sponsors of the bill is, the story says, in part a measure of the intensity of the lobbying campaign by supporters. Chemical and agribusiness trade groups have mounted an aggressive campaign on Capitol Hill, sponsoring "lobbying days" that bring farmers to Washington to meet with their representatives. Articles and editorials in the farming trade press predicted that continuing with the current law would produce economic disaster for growers and mean less fresh fruit and vegetables for children, who would suffer more illnesses and deaths as a result. One November article in the magazine The Packer even likened EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner to infamous mass murderer John Wayne Gacy. The 1996 law set a new, stringent safety standard for using pesticides, requiring "a reasonable certainty of no harm" for raw and processed food. It focused on making sure that food was safe for children, requiring that permissible exposures to pesticides be reduced tenfold to protect infants and children unless the EPA was presented with "reliable data" showing that so great a reduction was unnecessary. The extra protections for children were urged by a 1993 report of the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that developing brains and bodies are especially vulnerable to damage from the neurotoxins present in many pesticides. While the EPA had occasionally established additional safety margins for children, the academy’s scientists said the threat to children’s health was grave enough to warrant applying the protections in every case, unless there was solid evidence showing that extra safeguards weren’t needed. The Pombo bill essentially would reverse the burden of proof, requiring the EPA to provide detailed justification before it sought to apply any additional safety margins for children. The agency would face new obligations to explain itself whenever it used computer models or statistical assumptions "in the absence of data that could be obtained." At the same time, manufacturers that want to register new types of pesticides would still be allowed to use assumptions or calculations rather than conducting studies, making it easier for them to sell new compounds at the same time it would be harder for EPA to restrict old ones, opponents say. To subscribe to Agnet, send mail to: email@example.com leave subject line blank in the body of the message type: subscribe agnet-L firstname lastname i.e. subscribe agnet-L Doug Powell To unsubscribe to Agnet, send mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org leave subject line blank in the body of the message type: signoff agnet-L For more information about the Agnet research program, please contact: Dr. Douglas Powell dept. of plant agriculture University of Guelph Guelph, Ont.