In 1996, the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) amended the two federal laws governing pesticides: the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA). Congress’s goal was to address disparities between the two laws governing pesticide regulation and to address concerns that federal pesticide regulations were overly stringent. At the time, the onerous pesticide standards were leading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cancel many vital pesticide uses.
The hope was that the FQPA would ensure a more scientifically sound process that kept risks low while allowing continued use of many important products. However, the FQPA created new and unexpected problems and may, in fact, prove as onerous as the former law. Although many have claimed that the problems emanate from poor EPA implementation, problems have also resulted from new onerous standards written into the FQPA. Addressing these issues will likely require congressional action.
Before entering commerce, pesticides must gain registration for each specific use (e.g., use as indoor bug spray or on a specific crop) under FIFRA. To gain registration, registrants must provide data that demonstrate that does not pose an unreasonable safety risk. Without such EPA approval, firms may not sell any pesticidal product, although EPA can allow for emergency uses of certain products. In addition, the FFDCA requires that the EPA set “tolerance levels” for pesticides used on foods (as opposed to other uses, such as to control insects, rodents, or microbes). Tolerance levels specify how much pesticide exposure the EPA will allow as residue on foods. For example, the EPA sets a level that it believes, on average, will limit individuals’ exposure to pesticide residues found on apples, assuming an individual eats a certain number of apples every day for 70 years.