Pesticide reform of the Delaney Clause

In July, the House and Senate unanimously approved the Food Quality Protection Act (H.R. 1627), which was signed by President Clinton on August 3. The reforms outlined in this Act amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). They represent a significant commitment toward modernizing food safety law, in part, by repealing the Delaney Clause, a 1958 food safety provision that set a zero-risk cancer standard for pesticide residues on processed foods, and replacing it with a unified safety standard for raw and processed foods. It is estimated that as a result of this Act, two-thirds of the existing tolerances for pesticides will be reduced with the intention of having regulations to protect pregnant women, infants, and children.

The Act changes FFDCA by:

  • replacing the Delaney Clause with the standard of "reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to pesticide residue";
  • providing uniformity of state regulations on pesticide tolerances unless a state has successfully petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a different tolerance level, or can demonstrate that pesticide residues pose unreasonable dietary risks to the state's residents;
  • imposing civil penalties of up to $50,000 for individuals and up to $250,000 for companies that introduce pesticide-adultered food into the marketplace.

The Act changes FIFRA by:

  • defining the term "nitrogen stabilizer";
  • providing for uses of existing stocks of suspended or canceled pesticides;
  • providing for a review of pesticide registrations at least every 15 years;
  • adding definitions and minimum requirements for training of maintenance applicators and service technicians;
  • providing for coordination between federal and state officials on pesticide issues;
  • addressing pesticide labeling issues;
  • expediting registration of reduced-risk pesticides;
  • increasing data collection to ensure the health of infants and children; and
  • promoting the use of integrated pest management practices.

The reforms very likely will affect U.S. agriculture, agribusiness, and international trade. There may be costs and challenges during the transition period, but ultimately, the savings in health care costs and increased quality of life should outweigh any inconveniences. Farmers and agribusiness workers worldwide are consumers and parents, and desire a healthy life; the new Food Quality Protection Act is making inroads toward achieving this goal through its stricter pesticide safety standards.

Some of the information used in this article was provided by Jack Cooper (Food Industry Environmental Network, FIEN Report; July 27, 1996).

This article originally appeared on page 178 of the IC-476(24) -- October 7, 1996 issue.

Updated 10/06/1996 - 1:00pm