Submitted to: Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Technology
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/16/2000
Publication Date: 6/16/2000
Citation: Wauchope, R.D. On the regulation of frightening technologies: some lessons from pesticides. Environ. Impact Assessment Review 20:505-512. 2000.
Interpretive Summary: In March of this year the Agrochemicals Division of the American Chemical Society held a symposium on "Agrochemicals in the 21st Century" at their national meeting in San Francisco. 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 UK journal "Environmental Impact Assessment Reviews" to develop a written version for publication. The paper attempts to analyze trends in the field of pesticide regulation, and to relate that analysis to the emerging regulatory issues with genetically modified organisms(GMO's), which in many cases are being developed by the same industry. The four parties involved in regulation--the public, regulatory agencies, the industry, and users of the products--are involved in a "contract" documented by the pesticide label. The assumptions involved in that contract, and the challenges to it, are described.
Technical Abstract: Molecular biology is on the brink of a scientific revolution, but it is troubled by the secrecy of the technology, driven by intellectual property trends, and by a growing fear of the technology by the public. These fears will require regulation of this technology, and the model of the regulatory system used for pesticides is examined for its applicability to this newer technology, and to analyze whether current trends in pesticide regulation are likely to apply to biotechnology as well. There are four parties involved in the pesticide regulatory system: (a) the regulatory agencies (b) the industry (c) the users of the products and (d) the public. All parties must be in agreement for the process to work and two trends which are occurring in pesticides--the secrecy of the companies engaged in R & D, and the decline in public participation in the science--are fueling suspicion of both technologies. Two proposals are made which could help reverse these trends: (1)more transparency (i.e. more public documentation) of the research done by companies in support of registration should be required, in exchange for longer patent protection; (2) institutes need to be created which are funded by these industries but which investigate the longer-term, harder questions which are public concerns. These institutes would publish everything done in the open scientific literature.