Submitted to: Chemical Innovation
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2000
Publication Date: 9/1/2000
Citation: Wauchope, R.D. Pesticide Regulation in the 21st Century. Chemical Innovation 30(9):39-44. 2000.
Interpretive Summary: In March of this year the Agrochemicals Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS) held a symposium on "Agrochemicals in the 21st Century" at their national meeting in San Francisco, CA. Six scientists were invited to attempt to predict the future of agrochemicals from various points of view. This paper is the result of an invitation from the editor of the ACS Journal "Chemical Innovation" to develop a written version for publication. The paper attempts to analyze trends in the field of pesticide regulation, in terms of the author's personal experiences. The most important point I try to make is that the increasing intellectual property concerns of the manufacturers, as manufacturers, had led to more and more of the safety research on pesticides being done inhouse and in secret. The result is that the public and public-sector scientists like the author, are not able to review the bulk of the R & D being done. Without peer review the R & D work is not really "science", yet the regulatory system is supposed to be based upon science. Several proposals to mitigate this trend are offered, including a better analysis of environmental data we already have as well as industry-supported research institutes.
Technical Abstract: The author provides a personal history of the accomplishments of pesticide scientists in the area of environmental impact assessment, and the acceptance of the need for this research by agriculture. The pesticide regulatory system, perhaps the most elaborate and sophisticated product of the environmental movement that began with Rachel Carsen's Silent Spring, is then described as it operates today. This system is under stress. As the pesticide industry has concentrated to a half-dozen multi-national companies it is troubled by the secrecy of the technology, driven by intellectual property concerns, and by a mistrust of the public of the regulatory process which is supposed to protect it. Three issues are defined: (1) The dissatisfaction of both public and industry with the regulatory system; (2) a decrease in public participation in the science used to support the system; (3) a continued gap in our ability to detect pesticides at extremely low concentrations in the environment, with no understanding of whether such levels are important. Several proposals to mitigate this trend are offered, including a better analysis of environmental data we already have as well as industry-supported research institutes.