Albion Monitor /News

Congress Aims to Weaken Pesticide Law

by Marguerite Abadjian

Rewritten bill would tolerate a level of pesticides in processed foods

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- Despite increasing worries about the effects of pesticides and food additives on people and the environment, the U.S. Congress is preparing to pass legislation that would weaken federal regulations on pesticides.

Fierce opposition to the Food Quality Protection Act is coming from environmental and other groups as Congress moves to repeal a clause in the 1958 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act which prohibits the use of processed foods that carry higher concentrations of pesticides than the raw form of the food.

"This policy weakens public health protection and especially fails to protect children from the pesticides in the food they eat and the water they drink," said Sharon Fischman, campaign coordinator for the National Campaign for Pesticide Policy Reform.

The rewritten bill would tolerate a level of pesticides in processed foods. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that foods should be allowed on the market if there is no greater than a one in a million risk of cancer over a lifetime of exposure. Critics say this standard is obscure.

Clinton Administration and the U.S. pesticide industry support repealing the Delaney Clause

An environmental research group says that in the absence of strict health standards for pesticides, acceptable levels could change from administration to administration.

"Current legislation is not protecting public health, and the industry's answer is to make it weaker," said Richard Wiles, vice president for research at the Environmental Working Group.

The Clinton Administration and the U.S. pesticide industry support repealing the Delaney Clause in the 1958 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, saying the statute is outdated and was developed when the risks of cancer from pesticide use were much more difficult to determine.

Lynn Goldman of the EPA recently stressed the need for laws that "reflect current science and provide American consumers with assurance that (U.S.) food supply remains safe, abundant and affordable."

The EPA says that current legislation is not tough enough on pesticides in raw foods and is calling for a "single, health-based safety standard for pesticide residues in (all) food."

The American Crop Protection Association (ACPA) also supports changes to the current legislation. It says that the Delaney Clause prevents U.S. farmers from competing on the world market.

ACPA president Jay Vroom says the clause bans a fungicide badly needed to combat the cereal disease Kamal bunt, which threatens U.S. wheat crops. In Canada, Mexico and Europe farmers are allowed to use the fungicide.

"Such Delaney reform would remove the outdated, unattainable, and inconsistently applied zero policy for pesticide residues and replace it with a modern, responsible and scientifically attainable, negligible risk standard that applies equally to both raw and processed food," Vroom said recently in testimony before Congess.

"The combined effect of two pesticides may be 1,000 times greater than each pesticide alone"

The action in Congress comes amid increasing controversy about the effects of cancer-causing pesticides on human health, particularly the health of children.

Just this May, U.S. chemical maker Uniroyal Chemical Co. agreed to a partial ban on propargite, a pesticide used to kill mites. The ban has been applied to 10 crops, including apples, peaches, pears and plums, fruits especially popular among children. The EPA had found there were unacceptable levels of residue on fruits sprayed with propargite.

Scientists are engaged in a debate over the effects of certain chemicals on the immune system. The Washington-based World Resources Institute recently highlighted experiments on animals which show that pesticides weakened the animals' immune systems and their ability to fight disease.

Critics charge that the proposed new bill in Congress does not require special safety factors for children, nor does it consider exposure to multiple pesticides when setting standards.

"The combined effect of two pesticides may be 1,000 times greater than each pesticide alone," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, professor of pediatrics and co-author of the National Academy of Science's 1993 report, "Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children."

"It is silly to regulate a pesticide on foods as though it were the only pesticide present," he said.

Landrigan said further funding was needed to test whether there was a correlation between certain pesticides and the increasing number of cases of leukemia among children in the United States. The possible effects of pesticides on neurological diseases such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers are also not given enough attention, he said. /td>

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Albion Monitor July 7, 1996 (

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