[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 19-Feb-2006
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Contact: Charles Benbrook
cbenbrook@organic-center.org
208-290-8707
The Organic Center

Organic Center symposium examines children's pesticide risks

Contributions of organic farming in reducing pesticide risks and enhancing food quality to be highlighted

The lack of progress in reducing children's exposures to pesticides, despite passage in 1996 of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), will be highlighted during a symposium organized by The Organic Center at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday, February 19th at the 2006 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The papers and PowerPoint presentations by Dr. Alan Greene, Dr. Chenshung (Alex) Lu, Dr. Charles Benbrook, and Dr. Philip Landrigan are posted on the Center's website at http://www.organic-center.org/science.events.php.

The four national experts will assess and compare the impacts of organic farming, regulation, discovery of new pesticides, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and ecolabel programs on reducing children's pesticide risks. The impact of regulation, in particular the FQPA, has been modest. While the panelists applaud the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for decisive actions reducing risks from residential uses of pesticides, similar actions to reduce dietary exposures remain "few and far between."

"Regulation, and the FQPA in particular, has advanced knowledge of pesticide risks and addressed residential risks reasonably well, but has done surprisingly little to reduce pesticide dietary risks," says Dr. Charles Benbrook, Chief Scientist for The Organic Center. "Regulation has great unfulfilled potential, but in the current political climate, it is unlikely that the EPA is going to alter its current tentative and deliberate course in implementing the FQPA."

The results of a 2005 consultant's report to the EPA's Office of Inspector General are drawn upon in estimating the trends in dietary risks from 1994 through 2003. Overall dietary risks fell about one-third between 1994 and 2003. Regulatory actions impacting just nine crop uses of two organophosphate insecticides, chlorpyrifos and methyl parathion, account for 98 percent of the impact of the FQPA in reducing pesticide dietary risks through 2003.

A pronounced shift of pesticide risks from domestically grown to imported foods has also occurred over this time period, raising important economic, trade and political issues.

Key Findings to be Discussed
The discovery of new, reduced risk pesticides has clearly helped farmers in their transition away from high-risk pesticides. Steps by EPA to expedite registration of new chemistry should be strengthened.

Integrated Pest Management has not markedly reduced risks because it remains too focused on the efficiency of pesticide use and does not include even a secondary focus on risk reduction. Ecolabel programs that strive to reward farmers committed to risk reduction goals and/or IPM also have not substantially impacted risks because less than 3 percent of cropland acreage are enrolled in such programs and most lack clear-cut restrictions on high-risk pesticides.

Organic farming is highlighted as the clear exception. Evidence is presented showing that organic food assuredly and dramatically reduces pesticide risks to children and offers the greatest potential for effective private sector actions to reduce risks.

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