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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pesticide Law: A Summary of the Statutes

Linda-Jo Schierow
Specialist in Environmental Policy

This report summarizes the major statutory authorities governing pesticide regulation: the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and Section 408 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), as well as the major regulatory programs for pesticides. Text relevant to FIFRA is excerpted, with minor modifications, from the corresponding chapter of CRS Report RL30798, Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the EPA, coordinated by Bonnie C. Gitlin, which summarizes more than a dozen environmental statutes. 

Congress enacted the original version of FIFRA in 1947, but a revision in 1972 is the basis of current pesticide policy. Substantial changes were made in 1988 and again in 1996. The 1996 FIFRA amendments were contained in the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), which also amended the FFDCA. Congress first required limits on pesticide residues on raw food in 1954 amendments to the FFDCA. Limits were required for food additives (including pesticide residues in processed foods) in the 1958 FFDCA amendments. In the 1996 FFDCA amendments, Congress established a new standard of safety for pesticide residues in food (both raw and processed): maximum residue levels set by EPA must ensure with "a reasonable certainty" that "no harm" will result from pesticide exposure. 

FIFRA requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the sale and use of pesticides in the United States through registration and labeling of pesticide products. The sale of any pesticide is prohibited in the United States unless it is registered and labeled. EPA is directed to restrict the use of pesticides as necessary to prevent unreasonable adverse effects on people and the environment, taking into account the costs and benefits of various pesticide uses. In addition, FIFRA requires EPA to reregister older pesticides based on new data that meet current regulatory and scientific standards. Pesticides manufactured solely for export do not require registration. For pesticides to be registered for use in food production, FFDCA Section 408 authorizes EPA to establish allowable residue levels, called "tolerances," that ensure that human exposure to pesticide residues in food will be "safe." Foods with pesticide residues above the tolerance, or for which there is no tolerance established, may not be imported or sold in interstate commerce. A pesticide may not be registered under FIFRA for a food use unless a tolerance for that pesticide and food has been established under FFDCA. 

FIFRA directs EPA to make public any data submitted to support a registration application, if EPA registers the pesticide, but certain data are protected as trade secrets, and other registrants may not use the same data to support registration applications for similar pesticides for a period of 10 years. EPA continues to evaluate the safety of pesticides after they are registered, as new information becomes available. A pesticide registration may be canceled or amended if EPA determines that current use may cause unreasonable adverse effects.

Date of Report: February 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RL31921
Price: $29.95

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