Georgia Pesticide NewsletterThe University of Georgia
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

 

Cooperative Extension Service

 

 

 

 

Your source for pest management and pesticide news

 

August 1999/Volume 22, no. 8

 

FOOD QUALITY PROTECTION ACT

Methyl parathion and azinphos-methyl die with a whimper through negotiation
Methyl Parathion: Uses Canceled and Maintained
Azinphos methyl: Summary of Risk Reduction Measures
Who gets short-changed on negotiated settlements between EPA and registrants?
What are the larger risks of negotiated settlements?
When FQPA was initiated, one stated goal was 'transparency'
Does the EPA provide any comment period for negotiated settlements?
IPM Notebook
IPM in Schools remains a hot topic.
The EPA has released a number of science policy papers related to FQPA

WORKER PROTECTION STANDARD

BIOTECHNOLOGY
From the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, scientists have discovered a new way to turn plant genes on and off

Food Quality Protection Actsun graphic

Methyl parathion and azinphos-methyl die with a whimper through negotiation. Like anyone else, I love to say 'I told you so.' I knew that negotiation was the most dangerous part of FPQA. The registrants for methyl parathion and azinphos-methyl played 'Let's Make a Deal' with EPA.

I don't fault the registrants or EPA. Negotiation is the easiest way for registrants to get their best deal without costly (and uncertain) litigation. Likewise, EPA gets what they want without the expense and time of a comprehensive evaluation and costly (and uncertain) litigation. Everybody wins with negotiation, right? Wrong!

This story will illustrate the dangers of negotiation. Methyl parathion is (was?) one of the most important insecticides for Eastern peach growers. The growers have another alternative, phosmet, but it is another organophosphate and substantially more expensive. Because methyl parathion was negotiated away between the registrant and EPA, the peach growers had no voice in the decision.

two men graphic

What if someone had asked peach growers? What if EPA had established a safe level for peaches and asked the peach industry to meet the safe threshold or lose the chemical? Peaches may have increased the pre-harvest interval. They may have increased post-harvest washes to remove the chemical or added treatments to remove or break down methyl parathion. These strategies were never given consideration. The immediate result is increased production costs, which will either increase consumer costs or put Eastern peach growers out of business.

Consider another scenario. China would like to become a major player in the global peach market. If we increase U.S. grower costs by removing methyl globe graphic parathion, China growers will still be able to use the same chemical. We simply ship peaches from China, and the peaches have the same residues of methyl parathion.

Well, the United States can simply cancel the tolerance for U.S. peaches, and other countries will not be able to use it (legally). International politics (especially with a major player like China) is very different than canceling the registration of methyl parathion at home. We would have to convince the international community of the real risks (keep in mind that groups like the American Cancer Society and the American Society of Toxicologists do not see a real risk). Otherwise, it is unlikely that the U.S. can unilaterally cancel the use of methyl parathion on peaches worldwide.

On the other hand, let's suppose the United States does cancel the tolerance for methyl parathion on peaches. Legally, no other country can ship peaches into the United States if methyl parathion has ever been used in their production. Methyl parathion is a very toxic material, but it breaks down quickly. If Chinese growers use methyl parathion with an appropriate pre-harvest interval, it is unlikely that the United States could detect residues by the time the peaches reached our markets.

Let's review our goals.

What could we possibly achieve?

This paragraph is taken directly from the EPA.

Is the food supply safe? Yes, the food supply is safe. This action just makes it safer. Parents should continue to feed their children a balanced and nutritious diet rich in fruits and vegetables. EPA's action is focused on reducing risks for the next growing season. It is designed to ensure that the food supply has the extra margin of safety required by the tough new Food Quality Protection Act.

Do these statements seem incongruous? If the food supply is safe now, why would it not be safe next season? If the food supply is not safe, should I not stop eating all of the canceled foods right away? Have new data been developed that demonstrate that methyl parathion is more dangerous than it appeared to be in the past?

Methyl Parathion: Uses Canceled and Maintained

Do you notice any major economic markets that the registrant was able to maintain through negotiation? Cotton, corn, and small grains are grown on millions of acres.

If you want to take a chance, you can still use methyl parathion on any crop. Existing stocks of methyl parathion products with canceled crop uses may be applied until December 31, 1999. However, expect activist groups to label your crops as treated with methyl parathion.

Azinphos methyl: Summary of Risk Reduction Measures

Who gets short-changed on negotiated settlements between EPA and registrants? Clearly, minor crops and minor uses suffer the most. They are not even asked to the negotiation table. Ironically, FQPA is supposed to have provisions that help to protect minor crops/uses.

Consumers also suffer. As our illustration above demonstrates, we can increase food costs by simply shifting the exact same risk from domestic production to imports. We are increasing health risks by making it more expensive to buy fruits and vegetables. The effect is substantially greater on low-income families who have to spend a greater percentage of their income to buy food.

lady with shopping cart graphic

What are the larger risks of negotiated settlements?

The U.S. legal system is largely based upon precedent. 'The last time we did this, it worked. Let's do it again.' The additional restriction of methyl parathion and azinphos-methyl is serious, but there are even more important pesticides in the queue. Methyl parathion and azinphos-methyl will set a precedent if we allow it. It is too late to fight for methyl parathion and azinphos-methyl.

When FQPA was initiated, one stated goal was 'transparency.' Can you understand what happened with methyl parathion and azinphos-methyl?two men hiding paper graphic

Food safety is critical. The safety of my children is the most important thing in my life (I didn't waste all of that time keeping them from eating dead flies just to let them be killed by fruits and vegetables). However, I base my decisions on experts. I listen to groups like the National Association of Toxicologists and the American Cancer Society, not activist groups that depend on emotion rather than science.

The real danger of negotiation is the secrecy. The EPA and the registrants reached a satisfactory decision, but the most affected parties were not asked to the table. The FQPA was intended to make regulatory decisions with transparent processes based upon sound science. Negotiations were not transparent, and it is not clear that the decision was based on scientific facts.

Does the EPA provide any comment period for negotiated settlements?

No. For other EPA pesticide decisions, the law requires a period for the public to comment on the upcoming decision and the consequences. For negotiated settlements, the deal is done when EPA and the registrant sign the papers. Negotiation, although expedient, would seem to side-step the processes that allow science and public comment into the system. Is that not why we have a system in the first place?

What should we do?

When the players and the stakes become this big, political strength may be the only response. Congress should ask EPA to divulge the details of negotiation with hand writing graphicregistrants. Negotiation and expediency should not replace sound science as the basis of regulatory decisions. We have already contacted our Congressmen.

Let me be clear. The safety of our children is paramount. Maybe there was nothing that peach growers could do to adequately reduce the risk to children, but we should have asked the question. Hardly anyone wants to abolish the automobile. Everyone wants to make automobiles safer through legislation (e.g., seat belt laws, emission standards) and technology (e.g., air bags, anti-lock brakes). We should not deprive society of the benefits of pesticides without first carefully considering how we might reduce the risks.

IPM Notebook

IPM in Schools remains a hot topic. The Georgia Association of Educational Leaders met last month. We distributed 1,000 brochures about IPM in Schools. In October, we will present similar information to the Georgia School Superintendents Association. Training for pest control companies and schools is also planned schoolhouse graphicfor the Fall. Finally, we met with state IPM coordinators across the southern region to discuss IPM in School strategies. Here is the bottom line; if your company or school does not use IPM, you will be left behind.

Do you have any IPM in School success stories? Let us know. We want to show other school systems and pest control companies what can be done. One school system no longer sprays for roaches. In another system, the pest control company reduced the amount of pesticide used to control pests outside the lunchroom from more than 45 gallons per year to a few quarts with no reduction in pest control. We plan to provide a lot of publicity for programs that work to reduce the risks of pesticides used in schools.

Another success. Georgia Tech came to us for help in implementing IPM in Schools on their campus (I know that some UGA fans will think we should have let them drown in pesticides). We helped develop a request for proposals from companies that want the Tech contract. Between UGA and Tech, we produced a pretty good basis for a contract. We will post it on the web as soon as we can.

The EPA has released a number of science policy papers related to FQPA; the latest revisions are expected soon.man and big book graphic

  1. 'Use of data on cholinesterase inhibition for risk assessments.' Issued November, 1998. Due for published revision October, 1999.
  2. 'Proposed threshold of regulation policy when a food use does not require a tolerance.' Issued December 1998. Due for published revision August, 1999.
  3. 'Dietary (drinking water) exposure estimates.' Issued March, 1999 and sent to the Science Advisory Panel (SAP) in May. Due for published revision October, 1999.
  4. 'Framework for assessing nonoccupational/nondietary (residential) exposure to pesticides.' Issued March, 1999, scheduled for SAP September, 1999. Due for published revision December, 1999.
  5. 'Choosing a percentile of acute dietary exposure as a threshold of regulatory concern (99.9th percentile).' Sent to SAP in March 1999. Due for published revision December, 1999.

Worker Protection Standard

Do not forget that workers and pesticide handlers must be trained under WPS every five years. It has been about five years since WPS was passed, and the Farmworker Health and Safety Institute reports that agriculture is performing poorly. Based on a recent survey, WPS compliance on pesticide exposure prevention is below 50%. You can expect greater enforcement of WPS. If your workers and handlers need training, contact your local county extension office for assistance. Failure to comply with WPS could mean substantial liability (law suits) for your operation. (Pestic. & Tox. Chem. News, 7-29-99)

Biotechnology

From the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, scientists have discovered a new way to turn plant genes on and off. These results could have scientist graphictremendous implications. Chimeraplasty makes it easier to determine gene function. Also, it may be possible to turn plant protection genes on only when they are needed. (Pestic. & Tox. Chem. News, 9-29-99)

The appearance of any trade name in this newsletter is not intended to endorse that product nor convey negative implications of unmentioned products.

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.

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Department of Entomology
University of Georgia
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E-mail: pguillebeau@bugs.ent.uga.edu

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Sincerely:

Paul Guillebeau, Assistant Professor & Extension Entomologist