The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA) was re-introduced in the Senate by Senator Cory Booker on February 6 and is due to be reintroduced in the House mid-March. We are pleased to announce that PAN is among the organizations that support its passage! This bill would overhaul U.S. pesticide regulations, ultimately mandating new rules to protect people and the environment. The full text of the bill can be found here.
Current law is outdated
The current law governing U.S. pesticide regulations, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) contains provisions that prioritize pesticide industry interests above the health and safety of people and our environment.
Once approved, under FIFRA, pesticides typically remain on the market for decades, even after scientific evidence shows significant harm to people or the environment. Even provisional registrations, like the one provided for dicamba, are difficult to remove - despite clearly demonstrated issues with the product.
FIFRA continues to support widespread application of pesticides. In 2020, the United States used 1.66 billion pounds of pesticides — which includes an increase in herbicides by 34% since 2005 — and use levels of all pesticide types continue to increase. This includes 72 pesticides that have been recognized as harmful and are banned or being phased out by the European Union.
FIFRA’s failings lead to real and measurable threats these chemicals pose:
- Organophosphate insecticides have been linked to farmworker poisonings and neurodevelopmental damage in children.
- Neonicotinoid insecticides contribute to pollinator collapse around the world and have recently been shown to cause developmental defects, heart deformations, and muscle tremors in unborn children.
- Paraquat is one of the most acutely toxic herbicides in the world. Science has shown that chronic exposure to paraquat increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 200% to 600%. It is already banned in 58 countries.
The current law, as it is written, is past its useful lifespan. Changes need to be made to protect people, not chemical companies’ bottom lines.
PACTPA has the potential to succeed
The proposed Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act addresses many of FIFRA’s shortcomings. This bill provides significant protections for communities that bear the brunt of pesticide exposure, prohibits the use of old stockpiles of banned pesticides, and requires the listing of inert ingredients on all pesticide products, which are often as dangerous as the active ingredients.
- Ban dangerous pesticides including organophosphate insecticides, neonicotinoid insecticides and paraquat herbicides;
- Close loopholes that have allowed the EPA to issue emergency exemptions and conditional registrations to use pesticides even before they go through full health and safety reviews;
- Create a petition process for the people which will allow citizens to request review of pesticides that would otherwise be approved for use indefinitely;
- Support local community protective actions from preemption of veto by state law;
- Protect farmworkers from harm by requiring EPA-reviewed injury reports, improved pesticide label instructions and requiring labels in languages in addition to English; and
- Broaden the knowledge base by requiring suspension and review of pesticides deemed unsafe by other nations.
It’s time to move forward
FIFRA puts new products on the market quickly, while making it difficult to remove dangerous products. PACTPA would begin to shift the needle toward a regulatory system that protects the people and the environment.
With the current Farm Bill taking up much of the energy surrounding food and farming in the coming months, PACTPA provides an excellent template for changes that could be integrated into this larger legislation. For example, the Farm Bill could adopt PACTPA’s language that provides protections to ensure that local regulations could not be overridden by actions at the state level.
PACTPA will be difficult to move forward because CropLife and 350 industry organizations would prefer to keep the outdated, industry-friendly version of FIFRA around so they can continue to profit from dangerous pesticides. This time around, let’s take the step forward and push PACTPA through the legislative process — as part of the Farm Bill or separately — for our children, our farmworkers, and our environment.