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The Food Quality Protection Act: A New Way of Looking at Pesticides

October 1998

Citation: ELR 10555

Author: Kenneth Weinstein, Jeffrey Holmstead, William Wehrum, and Douglas Nelson

Editors' Summary: In 1996, the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) made major changes in the law governing pesticide residues in food, including elimination of the zero-risk standard for carcinogenic food additives. The FQPA instead imposed a new safety standard — a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide — for establishment of "tolerances" setting maximum allowable amounts of pesticide residue.

In this Article, the authors assess the significant regulatory challenges this new standard poses. They examine the factors EPA must consider in establishing tolerances, including information on the aggregate exposure to a given pesticide and the cumulative effects of pesticides with a common mechanism of toxicity. The authors trace EPA's efforts to begin implementation of the new law and explore the practical and scientific difficulties of developing reliable information on which to base tolerance decisions. They conclude that establishment of tolerances under the FQPA will be challenging, but workable, if EPA relies on and provides sufficient time for collection of good data.

Kenneth Weinstein, Jeffrey Holmstead, and William Wehrum practice environmental law with the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm of Latham & Watkins. Douglas Nelson is Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the American Crop Protection Association.