Cooperative Extension Service
The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Your source for pest management and pesticide news

October 2000/Volume 23, no. 10

FOOD QUALITY PROTECTION ACT/RE-REGISTRATION

As we prepare to travel to Washington to make a peach presentation to the EPA committee
Vegetable producers are at particular risk from FQPA decisions
The USDA IR-4 program is requesting grant proposals for projects investigating biopesticides
Cotton producers will be asked to participate in the Agricultural Resource Management Study

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

According to a report in Epidemiology, women who have lived on farms face a decreased risk of breast cancer
Alaska passed regulations that require posting of signs with skull-and-crossbones and the word DANGER whenever pesticides are applied at public or private schools
New York and Connecticut lobstermen are suing several pesticide companies for killing lobsters in the Long Island Sound
The Professional Lawn Care Association of Canada is coming under fire for providing a chemical that masks the offensive odor of some pesticides
A new handbook from Purdue can help you prepare for pesticide emergencies

FEDERAL NEWS

The EPA is generating considerable interest with an upcoming decision regarding an antimicrobial wash
Congratulations to Monte Johnson, the new USDA national program leader for environmental toxicology

BIOTECHNOLOGY

Kraft Foods recalled taco shells after it was discovered that the shells contained genetically engineered corn that has not been approved for human consumption
A group of Greenpeace members destroyed a stand of experimental GMO corn in England
To help fight eye disease linked to vitamin A deficiency, the inventors of 'Golden Rice' (genetically altered to produce vitamin A) have reached an agreement
A Scientific Advisory Panel will meet October 18-20 to discuss issues associated with crops genetically engineered to produce Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin(s)

DON'T DO IT!

In Louisiana, improper handling of waste pesticide killed a woman and injured her son

Food Quality Protection Act/Re-registration

As we prepare to travel to Washington to make a peach presentation to the EPA committee, CARAT (Committee to Advise on Reassessment and Transition), many people are wondering why we bother. Surely our presentation will not ensure the future availability of any pesticide, and sometimes EPA does not seem to care about agriculture's needs or desires.

In spite of these obstacles, it is critical to take an active part in the decision process for several reasons. 1) CARAT is not EPA. The committee is a diverse group representing interests from environmental groups to agricultural interests. For this committee to offer sound advice, they need information from us. 2) If we do not participate, CARAT and EPA may understandably think that additional restrictions on peach pesticides do not concern us. As a result, EPA may underestimate the importance of critical pest management tools. 3) Finally, agriculture has gained some important momentum in the FQPA process. The Agency removed the number one peach insecticide in the southeast (methyl parathion) with little meaningful input from the peach industry. There has been considerable backlash and criticism of EPA for this decision that some people think was based on politics rather than science. We have an opportunity to help EPA base future decisions on science if we provide them the facts.

Some of the more vocal anti-pesticide groups are noticeably absent from CARAT. These groups resigned from the CARAT predecessor (Tolerance Reassessment Advisory Committee) in protest of the slow progress of the FQPA. Some people are convinced that the only safe course of action is complete removal of organophosphate insecticides. I agree that FQPA activity has generally moved at a slow pace, with intermittent bursts of confusing activity (e.g., the chlorpyrifos decision). However, I think that FQPA decisions should be made slowly and with great care.

It is not logical for us to remove critical pesticides until we understand the implications. Since the methyl parathion decision, the SE peach industry has almost universally switched to phosmet (another organophosphate) as an alternative. Phosmet is not as effective as methyl parathion, so many growers have abandoned a practice in which they did not spray every row. These growers are applying more pesticide as a result of the methyl parathion cancellation. Additionally, many orchards face additional problems with scale insects since the loss of methyl parathion. These growers must apply even more pesticide to control scale insects. The SE peach growers used an encapsulated formulation of methyl parathion that is safer for workers to handle than the available formulation of phosmet. Finally, we could still be eating imported peaches that have been sprayed with methyl parathion. In retrospect, it is not clear that complete removal of methyl parathion was the best decision. Unless a pesticide has no benefits, it seems more logical to mitigate risks and keep the benefits instead of simply canceling the pesticide outright.

Vegetable producers are at particular risk from FQPA decisions because many of the concerns focus on produce; additionally, vegetable crops represent a relatively small financial incentive for pesticide companies. A lack of knowledge also exacerbates the problem. In many cases, EPA has little or no information concerning production of vegetables. As a result, Agency decisions may be based upon unreliable assumptions.

To address the lack of information, the National Agricultural Statistics Service and the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service will survey vegetable producers this fall. Collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, okra, and squash will be in the survey for the first time. Other targeted vegetables include lima beans, snap beans, cabbage, cantaloupe, cucumber, onion, sweet corn, tomato, and watermelon. We strongly encourage producers to participate in these surveys.

The USDA IR-4 program is requesting grant proposals for projects investigating biopesticides. The IR-4 program exists to help minor crops/uses obtain pesticide registrations. Therefore, this grant program is open for projects that work with bacteria, fungi, viruses, or other materials that would be qualified as pesticides. Biological control proposals (e.g., parasitoids, predators of pests) are not eligible for this program. For more information, contact Dr. Bill Biehn at 732-932-9575 (ext 603). Proposals for early-stage projects are due November 15, 2000; advanced-stage proposals are due December 15. You can also get a copy of the forms from me, pguillebeau@bugs.ent.uga.edu.

Cotton producers will be asked to participate in the Agricultural Resource Management Study. Interviewers from the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service will visit 200 Georgia cotton farmers to ask them about chemical applications, production practices, and pest management. The information will help us base pesticide regulatory decisions on science instead of assumptions. The data from this study will demonstrate that cotton production is safer and more environmentally friendly than ever before.

Without this kind of information, false assumptions harm American producers. For example, operating costs were estimated to be $1.13/bushel for corn and $0.48/pound for cotton. The actual operating costs were found to be twice that high. Regulatory decisions based on the original, erroneous cost estimates might assume that increased pesticide costs would have minimal economic impact.

Health and the Environment

According to a report in Epidemiology (vol. 11, no. 5, 2000), women who have lived on farms face a decreased risk of breast cancer compared with their counterparts who have never lived on a farm. The study questioned breast cancer patients and a similar group of women who never had breast cancer. The scientists also report that the decreased cancer risk also applied to women who may have been exposed to DDT. However, there was a slightly increased risk for women who did not wear protective clothing when applying pesticides or who had reported being exposed to pesticides during or following a field application. There was no increased risk for women who wore protective clothing when they applied pesticide.

There are two important lessons to be gleaned from this study. 1) Don't believe everything you hear (or think). Many people would immediately assume that exposure to pesticides during farm residence would lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. Many people would also assume that DDT exposure would result in an even greater risk. 2) There seemed to be an increased risk for women who did not wear protective clothing when applying pesticides. ALWAYS minimize your exposure to pesticides even when you think the pesticide is 'safe'. Remember the signal word (i.e., DANGER, WARNING, CAUTION) provides no information about the risks of chronic illness (e.g., cancer).

Alaska passed regulations that require posting of signs with skull-and-crossbones and the word DANGER whenever pesticides are applied at public or private schools (www.state.ak.us). I agree that parents have a right to know the specifics about pesticide applications to schools, but the addition of skull-and-crossbones and 'DANGER' could be counterproductive. First, the signal word DANGER and the skull-and-crossbones on a pesticide label denote a very dangerous pesticide that could kill. This new requirement will assign this word and symbol to all pesticide applications. Parents may mistakenly believe that highly toxic pesticides are being used around children. Conversely, overuse of 'DANGER' and the skull symbol will make some people feel that 'DANGER' pesticides are not really dangerous; this assumption could threaten lives.

I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of minimizing pesticide risks, particularly around children. Along with EPA, the Georgia Pest Control Association, and the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation, we launched a statewide project to implement integrated pest management in Georgia schools. However, it is important to avoid terms and symbols that create misconceptions about the nature of pesticide risks.

New York and Connecticut lobstermen are suing several pesticide companies for killing lobsters in the Long Island Sound. Last year, pesticides were applied over large areas to control mosquitoes because of concerns of West Nile virus. According to the suit, these pesticides caused extensive lobster mortality. Furthermore, the suit claims that the pesticide companies should have known the pesticide(s) would cause the lobster die-off. The lobstermen contend that four companies owe them $125 million. The companies claim the pesticides are probably not the cause of the lobster mortality. (Pesticide & Environmental News, 8-31-00)

The Professional Lawn Care Association of Canada is coming under fire for providing a chemical that masks the offensive odor of some pesticides. The product, Masker Aid Odour Concentrate, reportedly adds the faint aroma of cherry or chewing gum to pesticides. Critics accuse the Association of trying to 'sugarcoat a toxic pill.' Others are afraid that a pleasant smell could create a false sense of security. Canadian pesticide applicators are required to post all treated lawns with a sign that specifies the pesticide(s) used.
(Pesticide & Environmental News, 8-31-00)

I can see both sides of this issue. Some effective pesticides cannot be used by ornamental/turf professionals because the pesticides have a very offensive odor. An agent to mask the odor could provide this industry with some new, useful tools. Unfortunately, pleasant odors can create a false sense of security. I recently discussed pesticide risks with a school system official who spoke extensively about the pleasant smell of the pesticide they applied for control of head lice. I had a difficult time convincing him that the pesticide applications did not control head lice and that the odor of a pesticide had nothing to do with safety.

A new handbook from Purdue can help you prepare for pesticide emergencies. You can use the 112 page book to evaluate your risks and to prepare a plan for pesticide emergencies ranging from spills to fires. You can obtain the information on-line, www.btny.purdue.edu/PPP, or order a hard copy for $30 by calling 888-398-4636. Ask for Pesticides and Planning for Emergencies: Prevention, Reaction, and Response. I have not reviewed this book, but the other pesticide information from Purdue has been very useful.

Federal News

The EPA is generating considerable interest with an upcoming decision regarding an antimicrobial wash. Proctor & Gamble hopes to market 'Fit Fruit and Vegetable Rinse.' The company claims that the product will kill germs as well as removing pesticides, wax, dirt, etc. The EPA gained jurisdiction when the company claimed the product would control pests, i.e., bacteria. The claims of pesticide, wax, and dirt removal are not covered under EPA mandates. Antibacterial products of this nature are a new area for the Agency. (Pesticide & Environmental News, 9-7-00)

If this product is approved, look for similar items to follow. Society has become so concerned about bacteria that some scientists are concerned that we may be compromising development of the human immune system.

Congratulations to Monte Johnson, the new USDA national program leader for environmental toxicology. Dr. Johnson has been my counterpart in Kentucky, and I have always thought he did an excellent job. Now, Monte will provide national leadership for pesticide applicator training and pesticide risks to man and the environment. We will miss him at the state level, but he is an excellent choice to provide national leadership.

Biotechnology

Kraft Foods recalled taco shells after it was discovered that the shells contained genetically engineered corn that has not been approved for human consumption. The EPA has approved the corn, Starlink (Aventis CropScience) as animal feed. Starlink contains a protein that may trigger an allergic reaction for some people; the protein is toxic to European corn borer, a serious corn pest.

Kraft Foods and Aventis CropScience acted quickly to avert negative publicity. Kraft recalled millions of taco shells and suspended production. Aventis suspended sales of Starlink corn. (CNN.com, 9-24-00)

This recall provides plenty of new fuel for the biotechnology debate. This incident suggests that our current system does not ensure that genetically modified organisms (GMO) intended for animals can be segregated from human foods. Many people are calling for a complete ban on GMO production. Others groups, including Kraft, want GMO production limited to items that have been approved for human consumption.

Complete segregation of GMO from non-GMO commodities would be a tremendous burden on the current infrastructure of food storage and transportation. For example, corn from various parts of the country comes together at certain distribution points. Until the corn is shipped, it is all mixed together in large storage silos. Then, the mixed corn is transported to points around the world via ship, truck, and train. To absolutely assure separation of GMO corn, we would have to build another storage/shipment system dedicated to GMO commodities. Separate facilities would also be needed to handle oils produced from GMO crops.

A group of Greenpeace members destroyed a stand of experimental GMO corn in England; the jury found them guilty of theft but acquitted them of vandalism and trespass. This type of incident underscores that some people are very concerned about GMO, and they will risk their freedom to thwart the development of GMO. (Pesticide & Environmental News, 9-28-00)

We should not dismiss these people as lunatics, or ignore their feelings. Genetic engineering has tremendous implications, and everyone should be part of the debate. After all, biotechnology does carry some risks, and society should reach a broad decision on how to best guard against the pitfalls associated with genetic engineering. Certainly we will accomplish much more at the negotiating table than in the courtroom.

To help fight eye disease linked to vitamin A deficiency, the inventors of 'Golden Rice' (genetically altered to produce vitamin A) have reached an agreement that will enable delivery of this technology free of charge to developing countries. An estimated 400 million people depend on rice for sustenance. Because rice has little vitamin A, these people are at risk of a variety of eye problems. According to FAO, the deficiency results in irreversible blindness for 500,000 children per year. (http://www.whybiotech.com/)

As we debate about the risks and benefits of GMO, remember that the risks and benefits of this new technology affect real people. We can agree to disagree about some of the risks and debate them forever. However, it is not fair to allow the controversy to slow the release of a product that can be a tremendous benefit to millions.

A Scientific Advisory Panel will meet October 18-20 to discuss issues associated with crops genetically engineered to produce Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin(s). Among other items, the panel will review resistance management, nontarget effects, gene outcrossing, environmental fate, and economic benefits. The EPA registrations for both Bt corn and Bt cotton expire in 2001. The Agency may face considerable public opposition to continued registration. You can comment via e-mail opp-docket@epa.gov. Refer to Docket Control Number OPP-00678. Contact Paul Lewis for more information (703-305-5369 or lewis.paul@epa.gov). Whether you are for or against biotechnology, take the time to comment. Genetic engineering is destined to have a huge impact on our future; you should be part of the decision process to regulate biotech. (Pesticide & Environmental News, 9-7-00)

Don't Do It!

In Louisiana, improper handling of waste pesticide killed a woman and injured her son. During a demolition project, two cylinders of methyl bromide marked 'Poison' were discovered. An employee of the demolition company thought the cylinders contained propane or butane, and he took them to a cousin's home for storage. Unfortunately, the valve leaked on one of the containers. (EPA Pesticide Update, via Chemically Speaking, 8-00)

Old pesticides are commonly discovered in old farm buildings or 'inherited' with the purchase of rural land. Never assume that an old material is no longer dangerous. Contact your local county extension for advice about proper disposal.

Dear Readers:

The Georgia Pest Management Newsletter is a monthly journal for extension agents, extension specialists, and others interested in pest management news. It provides information on legislation, regulations, and other issues affecting pest management in Georgia.

Do not regard the information in this newsletter as pest management recommendations. Consult the Georgia Pest Control Handbook, other extension publications, or appropriate specialists for this information.

Your input in this newsletter is encouraged.

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Department of Entomology
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602

E-mail: pguillebeau@bugs.ent.uga.edu

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http://www.ces.uga.edu/ces/wnews.html

Sincerely:

Paul Guillebeau, Associate Professor & Extension Entomologist