The deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) shocked into silence attendees of a recent Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) workshop when he told them the agency would NOT be issuing a call for data as the agency reviews organophosphate (OP),carbamate, and B-2 (potential carcinogens) tolerances.
Steve Johnson said the agency had sufficient data to make regulatory decisions and would proceed with the review process, although it would accept additional data if they were provided. He said default assumptions on pesticide usage would be used, unless data were provided to show otherwise.
Johnson's comments came at the beginning of a day-and-a-half-long FQPA workshop February 18-19 in St. Louis jointly sponsored by the EPA and the USDA Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service. The workshop targeted state pesticide coordinators, IPM and National Pesticide Impact Assessment Program (NAPIAP) coordinators, pesticide section leaders in state departments of agriculture, producer groups, and registrants. Workshop attendees ranged from those extremely well versed on the FQPA and very politically involved in the process to those who were hearing about the issue in depth for the first time.
The workshop featured both invited speakers and breakout sessions, where smaller interactive groups focused on identifying short and long-term issues and goals, developed action plans to assist growers during FQPA implementation, and recommended actions by USDA, EPA, and land grant universities.
Leonard Gianessi, of the National Center for Food and Ag Policy, a private, non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., analyzed the potential impacts of the FQPA on several crops. His presentation was a synopsis of his in-depth analysis available on the Internet at http://piked2.agn.uiuc.edu/piap/gianessi/oppap02t.htm.
David Crowe, of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE), based in Washington, D.C., said it was his opinion that Congress intended the FQPA to be implemented as the reregistration process continued, that data call-ins and time limited tolerances would be used during the process to prevent a significant disruption to the U.S. food production system. He predicted a massive and bipartisan backlash from Congress, if FQPA regulation continues in its current vein.
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, based in Washington, D.C., had exactly the opposite opinion: EPA was implementing the FQPA just as Congress had intended. Cook gave an impromptu presentation on his group's recent report "Overexposed: organophosphate insecticides in children's food". This last minute change to the agenda was prompted by earlier speaker's comments about the reports methodology and conclusions. Cook told workshop participants that the EWG report would be presented to EPA's scientific advisory panel at its March meeting.
Dan Botts, of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, emphasized that industry must ensure "biological plausibility" for the use patterns remaining after tolerance reassessment. The association sent surveys to growers requesting information on alternatives to active ingredients currently under review, and actual product usage patterns. When compiled, this information will be provided to EPA, USDA's Office of Pest Management Policy (OPMP), and others.
Dean Zueleger voiced grower concerns and exhorted workshop participants to work with one another to avoid a situation where growers in different geographic regions would be pitted against one another in the scramble to save certain pesticide uses.
Participants in workshop breakout sessions arrived at several group conclusions:
National Agricultural Pesticide Impact and Assessment Program (NAPIAP) representatives learned for the first time at the workshop that the USDA wants NAPIAP state liaison representatives in each state and territory to develop crop profiles for the commodities within their respective states by working with grower organizations and university extension specialists. Once developed, these profiles would be routed through the NAPIAP system to EPA. These profiles are to contain information on actual use patterns, identify key pest/pesticide combinations, and identify pesticides that are critical to IPM programs.
The amount of work needed to provide this information is daunting. There was no mention of increased funding to provide for data gathering. The deadline for tolerance review of the OP/carbamate/B-2s is still August 3, 1999. Those states with a high proportion of minor crops have more ground to cover than those states producing primarily major crops, and they must do it in the same amount of time.
Also daunting are the actions EPA personnel could take when reviewing OP/carbamate/B-2 tolerances. These range from "only some" tolerances revoked (an active ingredient dropped, or just specific crops dropped for that active ingredient), to "many" tolerances revoked, to "all" tolerances for the OP/carbamates/B-2s. Few workshop attendees discussed "only some" scenarios; the majority left grimly discussing the "many" and "all" scenarios.
Return to title page April 1998 Agrichemical and Environmental News