Toxicological Evaluation Of Pesticides

Pesticides used in food production require detailed study in a series of toxicological tests. Laboratory animals (often rodents, dogs, and nonhuman primates) are used to study the acute, subchronic, and chronic toxicity of pesticides. In these studies, the metabolic fate, mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and teratogenicity of pesticides are determined in addition to a large number of other toxicological effects. Additionally, EPA requires studies on the environmental fate of pesticides and their breakdown products, and the effects on nontarget organisms. All the collected data is reviewed by EPA for evaluation of the risks associated with the pesticide. This is a long and costly process, which frequently involves more than 10 years before a pesticide registration may be granted and at a cost in the tens of millions of dollars.

As FIFRA is primarily a risk-balancing statute, the EPA registers pesticides under a statutory standard that requires balancing the benefits of the use of the pesticide in question (such as increased crop yield, lower food cost, or public health protection) with potential risks such as health effects of consumers or agricultural workers and environmental damage. Thus the EPA grants a registration and specifies the commodity or commodities for which the pesticide may be used, as well as appropriate conditions for use and disposal. Failure to obey such legal requirements (printed on the pesticide labels) is a federal offense. Once federal registration is granted, the pesticide may still be subject to restrictions or denied use within individual states. More stringent use restrictions are frequently applied in some states, such as California.

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