EPA Aims to Relax Limits on Common Pesticide

ProPublica reports on how critics say the agency is working too closely with chemical industry
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2024 3:15 PM CDT
EPA Aims to Relax Limits on Common Pesticide
Tomatoes are displayed at a supermarket.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

"It's exactly what we recommended against." That's the view of Veena Singla, a member of a scientific advisory panel tapped by the EPA, on the agency's plan to loosen restrictions on a pesticide called acephate. Sharon Lerner of ProPublica digs into the issue and how new testing standards could result in more pesticides allowed on the food we find in the produce aisle. Acephate is used to fend off bugs that like to feast on fruits and veggies including tomatoes and celery. It's been restricted due to its class of compounds that have been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and hyperactivity, but a new series of tests conducted via the industry contradict past findings. The EPA's recommendations based on those new results would permit 10 times the limit previously accepted on food.

With public comments on the issue set to open this summer, Lerner explores the issue of eschewing past testing methods on whole animals for experiments that involve collections of cells (which one scientist likens to fishing with a loose net). "I think the companies see this as a new way over a 10- or 20-year period to gradually lobby to allow higher levels of pesticides in food," agricultural economist Charles Benbrook tells Lerner. Her story points to a potential conflict of interest through EPA partnerships with the chemical industry on testing, noting that through 2018, the agency has spared companies millions of dollars in costs by waiving 1,000 tests for new chemicals entering the market. Read the full piece here. (The EPA is going after forever chemicals in drinking water.)

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