From the farm to the
What are categorized as pesticides?
“The term pesticide includes many kinds of
ingredients used in products, such as insecticides,
fungicides, rodenticides, insect repellants, weed
killers, antimicrobials, and swimming pool chemicals,
which are designed to prevent, destroy, repel, or
reduce pests of any sort.”
Basically, pesticides are substances intended to be
used for destroying, preventing, mitigating or repelling
What are the common groups of
Who Monitors Pesticides?
Environmental Protection Agency
Food and Drug Administration
U.S. Department of Agriculture
The USDA is responsible for evaluating
and establishing the regulations pertaining
to the pesticides though analytical studies.
The FDA is responsible for establishing
the laws pertaining to crops and
EPA is responsible for regulating the
pesticides that are used by growers to
protect crops and for setting tollerences
called maximum residue limits (MRLs) on
the amount of pesticides that may remain
in or on foods marketed in America.
Before a pesticide may be marketed and
used in the United States, EPA evaluates
the proposed pesticide thoroughly to
ensure that it will not harm human health
or the environment. Pesticides that pass
this evaluation are granted a license or
"registration" that permits their sale and
use according to requirements set by EPA
to protect human health and the
The Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic
Residue chemistry data are designed to provide
the information necessary to determine the site,
nature, and magnitude of residues in or on food
This information includes plant metabolism data,
residue data, analytical methodology, and, when
indicated, animal metabolism data and animal
feeding studies to determine the carry over of
residues into meat, milk, poultry, and eggs.
Types of Studies Required
Data from Studies that Determine Hazard to
Humans and Domestic Animals
Data from Studies that Determine Hazard to
Post-Application Exposure Studies
Applicator/User Exposure Studies
Pesticide Spray Drift Evaluation
EPA uses residue chemistry data to estimate the
exposure of the general population to pesticide residues
in food and for setting and enforcing tolerances for
pesticide residues in food or feed. The Agency can
estimate the amount and nature of residues likely to be
present in food or animal feed because of a proposed
pesticide usage by evaluating information on:
the chemical identity and composition of the pesticide
the amounts, frequency, and time of pesticide
test results on the amount of residues remaining on or
in the treated food or feed
Approach to Microbial Pest Control
The efficacy of the agent often depends upon its ability
to replicate in the target pest, which is not likely to
remain on the crop after harvest.
The living form of the agent in most instances will usually
not replicate in the absence of the specific target pest.
Environmental conditions such as sunlight, rainfall,
winds, humidity, and temperature often greatly reduce
the viability of the agent; therefore, the residues of living
organisms are apt to be small or relatively insignificant
shortly after application.
Data supporting currently registered MPCAs indicate that
they would not likely pose a hazard to humans or other
In many instances where and when a
microorganism is used as an MPCA, the
microorganism is already normally present in the
environment and has demonstrated no adverse
Residues of microorganisms used as MPCAs
that are capable of replication on food or feed--a
very remote possibility--may be rendered
nonviable or be removed by the usual
processing of such foods and feeds (i.e.,
washing, drying, heat sterilization, and additions
of sugar, salt, and other preservatives).
Biochemical Pesticide Test
Most of the legislation the EPA uses are mandated in US Code Title 21.9.IV.§346
“Any poisonous or deleterious substance added to any
food, except where such substance is required in the
production thereof or cannot be avoided by good
manufacturing practice shall be deemed to be unsafe for
purposes of the application…the Secretary shall
promulgate regulations limiting the quantity therein or
thereon to such extent as he finds necessary for the
protection of public health, and any quantity exceeding
the limits so fixed shall also be deemed to be unsafe…In
determining the quantity of such added substance to be
tolerated in or on different articles of food the Secretary
shall take into account the extent to which the use of
such substance is required or cannot be avoided in the
The testing is typically done by third
parties. A prominent example is the
Eclipse Scientific Group.
“Modern agriculture has evolved to the
extent that consumers now expect to be
able to buy a plentiful supply of food, at a
reasonable price, throughout the year.
Farmers and growers often use pesticides
to help them achieve this goal.”
Aren’t pesticides poisons?
As poisons, pesticides are inherently dangerous.
However, farmers manage and reduce the risk
by both using low levels and applying some time
before the crop is harvested so that the pesticide
degrades into harmless compounds or is
washed off by the rain or other means. Thus
they can be targeted and used at application
levels that kill insects rather than harm humans
who subsequently use the products.
What about the pesticides that
have long term residual effects?
Chlordecone AKA Kepone
Chlordecone: Leads to abnormal sperm
and affects their ability to move.
Its use was banned in 1975 for use in
(The Dead Kennedys recorded a song
named Kepone Factory in 1978).
Lindane: Linked to breast and other
cancers, and fertility problems.
In 2006, the EPA called for the
cancellation for agricultural uses.
It is still used in pharmaceuticals to treat
DDT: Linked to cancer and male infertility after it
was shown to block the action of male hormones.
It was originally synthesized in 1874 and in 1948
Paul Hermann Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize
in Physiology or Medicine for the high efficiency of
DDT as a contact poison.
It has been banned in the US since 1972 but is still
commonly used in developing nations to combat
malaria, typhus, and other insect-borne diseases
among both military and civilian populations after
being suggested by the WHO in 2006.
Organophosphates: Those used in
sheep dip have been linked to excessive
tiredness, headaches, limb pains,
disturbed sleep, poor concentration, mood
changes, and suicidal thoughts.
Like DDT, these were banned in the US in
Pesticides save farmers money by
preventing crop losses to insects and
other pests; in the US, farmers get an
estimated four-fold return on money they
spend on pesticides.
Pesticides help farmers increase crop productivity and quality and are
therefore an indispensable tool for the sustainable production of high
quality food and fibres.
Pesticide use enables farmers to grow more per unit area, with less
tillage, reducing pressures on forests and other uncultivated land,
conserving natural resources and reducing soil erosion.
Pesticides help ensure that consumers have access to affordable food
that is safer and more nutritious.
Pesticides have removed the hardship of hand weeding, and given
farmer families across the world the choice to pursue education and
opportunities away from farming, so improving quality of life and
Pesticides help safeguard public health by controlling or eliminating
pests that cause disease and property damage.
According to the NIH MedlinePlus Medical
Encyclopedia, roughly 7 million people die
of food poisoning each year, with about 10
times as many suffering from a non-fatal
Should we go back to using original
Sumerian began using sulfur as a
pesticide over 4,500 years ago.
By the 15th century, toxic chemicals such
as arsenic, mercury and lead were being
applied to crops to kill pests.
Organic farms use pesticides. Organic
farmers still use naturally derived
Similar Regulatory Agencies
Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC)
regulates pesticides in England.
Information on EPA's pesticide regulatory
program and a variety of pesticide-related
publications call (703)-305-5017.