Pesticide Regulation

In the United States, the first legislation concerning pesticides was passed with the creation of the FDA in 1938, through the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). The FFDCA established the requirement for pesticide tolerances when pesticide use could result in residues on food or feed crops.

In 1947, Congress passed the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which grouped all pesticide products under one law and mandated labeling and registration requirements. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was given the initial responsibility to administer FIFRA. Several amendments to FIFRA were passed (1975, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1996), which included, among others, provisions for use restriction, pesticide réévaluation and re-registration, and toxicological and environmental impact studies. In 1958, the Delaney Clause was approved as an amendment to the FFDCA. It stipulated that any food additive shown to cause cancer in humans or laboratory animals could not be used. In 1972, the responsibility for FIFRA administration was transferred to the newly created Environmental Protection

Agency (EPA). EPA is authorized to grant pesticide registrations, to establish pesticide tolerances, and to regulate pesticide residues in food and feed under FIFRA.

In 1996, after legal disputes over the Delaney Clause, a new act, the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) was signed into law. The FQPA mandates a single, health-based standard for all pesticides, eliminating the Delaney paradox that arose due to inconsistencies resulting in different methods for regulating pesticides in raw commodities and those found in processed foods (9). The FQPA establishes standards that apply to all types of risks, including cancer risks and endocrine disruption, and guides the establishment for setting allowable levels (tolerances) for all pesticide residues on raw agricultural commodities and processed food. Important new provisions of the FQPA include additional protection for infants and children, consideration of aggregate risks from food, water, and domestic exposure, and consideration of cumulative risks from pesticides with common mechanisms of toxicity. Additionally, FQPA expedites approval of safer pesticides, requires periodic re-evaluation of pesticide registrations and tolerances, provides a consumer right-to-know provision and creates incentives for the development and maintenance of effective crop protection tools for farmers (1).

Three major U.S. regulatory agencies have the primary responsibility for regulating pesticides:

1. EPA, which has developed a series of guidelines for the toxicological testing of pesticides, registers pesticides for use, prescribes labeling, and establishes allowable levels (tolerances) of pesticides on food and feed crops;

2. FDA, which monitors domestic and imported foods for pesticide residues and enforces tolerances; and

3. USDA, which enforces tolerances on meat, poultry, and some egg products and also conducts the Pesticide Data Program (PDP) that provides important information on pesticide residue levels of fruits and vegetables in ready-to-eat form that may be directly used by EPA as a risk assessment tool.

At the international level, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the World Health Organization (FAO/ WHO) is the regulatory authority on pesticides and develops, through the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues, regulatory standards for maximum residue levels (MRLs). These standards are used widely throughout the world, but their use is not universal; several countries, including the United States, adopt their own standards for pesticide residue levels and enforce their sovereign standards on food entering their countries from foreign lands.

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