- 1. Isn’t it true that pesticides used by farmers that are approved by the EPA are safe as long as the chemicals are used as directed?
- Doesn’t the EPA’s approval of a pesticide mean that it is not harmful to us, our pets, our birds and wildlife, as well as our environment?
- Does the EPA, another government agency, or a private lab conduct tests to measure how toxic a new pesticide is?
- Answer – Unfortunately, the EPA itself admits that their approval process is not an assurance of the ‘approved’ pesticide’s safety. In fact, EPA’s own regulations do not allow pesticide companies to claim on their products that the pesticide is ‘harmless’ or ‘safe’ or not harmful to pets and humans even without the usual ‘when used as directed.’
- Answer – The EPA will approve a chemical pesticide based on what they call a ‘risk benefit.’ This means that the EPA that is supposed to protect us, often approves a pesticide if it does cause an “unreasonable risk to man or the environment, taking into account the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.” (7 USC secs. 136(bb) and 136a(c)(5)(C)). Even if the chemical pesticide could be harmful to us, our pets, and wildlife, farmers can use the pesticide so they won’t have greater labor costs and will have higher crop yields, although the 1996 Food Quality Act canceled this economic benefit value, but did nothing about the potential hazardous pesticide exposure for farm workers or the environmental impacts.
- Answer – While most of us would assume the EPA or perhaps another government lab would test a new pesticide product, the EPA relies on the pesticide company itself for the lab tests and data. And that’s not all, because many companies use a loophole – the ‘conditional registration’ – they can market their products before final ‘approval’ – based on their company’s data. The National Resources Defense Council discovered that about 16,000 pesticides were first approved using this loophole.
These questions and answers are substantially modified from Sharon Tisher’s brilliant, “A Pesticides Quiz and Primer: 2017 Update”, that appeared in the Maine Farmers and Growers Association Bulletin.
Material used with permission.