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Economic growth, not safety, driving pesticide regulation

The science is clear that biocides pose threats to people and our environment. Every year we learn more about the impacts of exposure to pesticides and herbicides, and we find that there are substantial risks especially for exposure for children and pregnant mothers.

The EPA and the federal and state agencies tasked with regulating pesticides and chemicals are absolutely failing to do so. Much of this is shaped in the interest of economic growth, not safety.

The regulatory process misses or ignores many effects all together and often doesn’t take into consideration any ecological impacts or long-term, chronic, low-level exposure to these biocides (such as that to which a child growing up utilizing a regularly sprayed sports field may be exposed).

Pesticides are registered while important health and safety data is still being generated. Reevaluations of old pesticides mandated by laws passed in the 1970s are still incomplete. Pesticides may continue to be used after evidence of their hazards is given to EPA. And pesticides may never be required to be tested for certain kinds of hazards. These are some of the other failures of the federal regulation of pesticides.

One way in which corporations registering their biocides manipulate the regulatory processes is through the conditional registration exemption. Under FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act), the EPA can allow “conditional registration” of new pesticide products even though health and safety tests are missing (FIFRA Sec. 3(c)(7)) because “requiring completion of all the tests would put new products at an economic disadvantage to older pesticides.”

It is very clear that it’s absolutely designed for economic purposes and not for the protection or safety of the community or environment. See

Due to the design of the EPA pesticide regulatory system, chemical corporations that produce these herbicides are in essence self-regulating their products as they conduct the testing of safety and only submit their findings to the EPA for approval. The pesticide registration with the EPA is no guarantee of safety, and in fact provides a false sense of safety where there is none.

Regulatory agencies are simply unable to do the job they are tasked with in some cases because of underfunding and staffing issues and in some cases because of the purposeful design of the system and its loopholes.

This outline from the government’s own website outlines why the EPA has failed to monitor and track conditional registrations of pesticides. See

This article Superficial Safeguards and available here ( also outlines the ways that the EPA’s approval processes is flawed and not protecting our citizens or environment.

Similarly, the state Department of Agriculture is unable to manage pesticide use in Hawaii safely. Look at the recent case on Maui where Monsanto was exposing workers to a banned pesticide. Also, recently on Kauai, Syngenta (now Hartung Brothers Hawaii) workers were exposed to chlorpyrifos in the field despite the chemical corporations and their research facilities claiming they have the highest standards of practice.

The industry talking points are always the same, and they will continue to try to convince decision-makers and legislators that these chemicals are tested and regulated appropriately by bodies with more authority then theirs. These are blatant lies.

The EPA, the state Department of Agriculture and the other regulatory bodies that you are counting on to keep you safe are designed to instead approve half-tested products tested by the manufacturer (not the government) for safety and then use these biocides, often for decades, until undeniable impacts are discovered and proven.

We have seen this over and over and over throughout history — chemicals approved and deemed safe only to be discovered to cause irreversible, undeniable harm.

Please do not rely on these agencies who are failing to regulate. Protect yourself, your family and our environment and please elect legislators that will also.


Fern Anuenue Holland was born and raised on Kauai. She has a bachelor’s degree with majors in wildlife management, marine biology and environmental sciences. She has worked for nearly 15 years in community advocacy relating to pesticide exposure and the impacts of pesticides (including herbicides) on people and the environment.
Source: The Garden Island

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