On May 5, 2022, TCIA, along with 158 other industry partners, signed on to a letter expressing support for H.R.7266, a bill to “amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to prohibit the local regulation of pesticide use, and for other purposes.” As stated in the letter, the bill would, among other changes, ensure that the oversight of pesticides is based on scientific expertise at the state and federal level.
Currently, FIFRA governs pesticide use in the United States. If passed, H.R. 7266 would reinforce the intention of FIFRA that only the state lead agency can act as a coregulator in the state with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ensuring that the highly technical work of determining how pest-control products and services are used is made by those with the necessary expertise. Such changes would prevent local jurisdictions from imposing a patchwork of conflicting regulatory restrictions without scientific assessment, economic analysis or consideration of the rights of property owners to control pests or of public health agencies to control disease vectors.
FIFRA requires the EPA to regulate the sale and use of pesticides in the U.S. through registration and labeling. Registration approval depends on a finding that the pesticide will not pose “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment” when used in conformance with labeling directions.
Originally passed in 1947, FIFRA underwent a complete revision in 1972 following congressional concerns about the long- and short-term toxic effects of pesticide exposure on applicators, food consumers and wildlife and insects not targeted by the pesticide. Substantial changes to FIFRA have been made since 1972 to, among other revisions, streamline the re-registration process, authorize registration fees and, in 1996, with the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), require special protection for children, establish more stringent safety standards for regulation of pesticide residues on food and require periodic review for pesticide registrations.
The EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) implements FIFRA by overseeing the registration of pesticide products and establishing maximum levels for pesticide residues in food. Registration is based on evaluation of scientific data and assessment of risks and benefits of a product’s use. For instance, when a manufacturer applies to register a pesticide, the EPA requires them to submit data on toxicity and can require the manufacturer to submit data from a combination of more than 100 different tests. Based on the data submitted, the EPA determines whether, and under what conditions, the proposed pesticide use would present an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment.
Recent efforts to amend FIFRA
First introduced as companion legislation S. 4406 and H.R. 7940 in August 2020, and re-introduced as S.3283 in November 2021, the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA) seeks to amend FIFRA to ban the use of organophosphate and neonicotinoid pesticides, along with the agricultural herbicide paraquat. The bill would also require the administrator of the EPA to suspend the registration of any pesticide product that is banned in the European Union and/or Canada, pending a two-year expedited review of the justification and rationale for the ban. Furthermore, the legislation would allow individual citizens to petition the EPA to remove pesticides from the market and allow localities to regulate the sale or use of any federally registered pesticides and remove the uniformity requirements for labeling or packaging from FIFRA.
Proponents of PACTPA cite studies linking the use of organophosphate and neonicotinoid insecticides to neurodevelopmental damage in children and as contributors to pollinator collapse as reasons for ending the use of these pesticides. They argue the EPA continues to approve pesticides with “ingredients widely considered to be dangerous [that] often remain on the market for decades, even when scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows a pesticide is causing harm to people or the environment.”
PACTPA opponents, who instead support the existing FIFRA framework, argue that the legislation is trying to fix a process that is not broken – highlighting the EPA’s common changes to label instructions, including limits on where and how pesticides may be used, as effective.
Due to PACTPA’s provisions that would make it increasingly difficult to protect green spaces from invasive pests and create a confusing patchwork of pesticide regulations not based on science, TCIA signed on to a letter in September 2020 opposing the bill and asserting that the FIFRA framework is a more consistent and informed approach to determining the safety of pesticide products. Ultimately, PACTPA did not progress beyond its post-introduction committee referrals in the 116th Congress. And, as of November 30, 2021, the version introduced for the 117th Congress awaits action in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
While the fate of H.R.7266 is uncertain, proponents of the bill are using its congressional support to gauge member interest in pesticide oversight ahead of the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization negotiations expected to begin sometime this year.
TCIA will continue to keep members apprised of any relevant updates regarding pesticide regulation.
Lara Dunkelberg is a legislative assistant with Ulman Public Policy, TCIA’s Washington, D.C.-based advocacy and lobbying partner.
Want to know more about TCIA’s advocacy efforts? Visit advocacy.tcia.org.
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