10 July 2000 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]By Glenn Hess
Industry-supported legislation that would force the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to change the way it implements a 1996 federal food safety law appears dead for the year after a key House committee chairman said his panel would not consider the bill.
"The Administration is opposed. The environmental community is opposed. It is not going to become law this year," said House Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas Bliley in a speech to a panel of the American Bar Association.
The bill, introduced in April 1999 by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), would require EPA to issue formal rules, rather than guidance, as it carries out the requirements of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).
The 1996 law requires the agency to reevaluate the safety of nearly 10,000 registered uses of pesticide over a 10-year period under a new, more stringent risk assessment standard.
Under the Pombo bill, EPA would have to use sound science and the best available "real-world" data when making decisions on pesticides uses. If reliable data are not available, registrants and others would have to provide it according to EPA guidelines.
But with the fall elections approaching, Rep. Bliley said, "I'm not going to bring it up and have my guys cast as antienvironmentalists."
The legislation is strongly opposed by environmental and consumer activists, who contend the measure would prevent the EPA acting quickly to protect children from unsafe pesticide exposures.
The pesticide industry and agricultural groups counter that the legislation is needed to prevent the unnecessary loss of essential crop-protection chemicals and to ensure a transparent, predictable regulatory process.
Rep. Bliley said he is "concerned" that EPA is making hasty decisions about many pesticide uses, referring to recent agency actions against three widely used organophosphate insecticides.
The FQPA does not suggest that EPA should make decisions about pesticides based on draft documents, policies or guidelines, he noted. "Nothing in the law compels EPA to adopt unreasonable safety standards or overly conservative risk assessments," Rep. Bliley added.
He also expressed concern that EPA is ignoring reliable data in making decisions about pesticides, and is instead relying on theoretical "worst-case" assumptions. The FQPA requires EPA to use valid, complete and reliable science, said Rep. Bliley.
The Pombo bill has been endorsed by 233 of the House of Representative's 435 members, while an identical measure pending in the 100-member Senate has 40 co-sponsors.
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