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Another Y2K Issue For Farmers: EPA To Begin Implementing Food Quality Protection Act

Although the act will affect many chemicals, from the pesticides in flea collars to those used in industry, farmers will be among the first groups to notice major changes. Wisconsin grain, vegetable and fruit growers may not be able to apply pesticides in 2000 that they have used in the past, according to Michelle Miller, who coordinates the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pesticide Use and Risk Reduction Project.

Located in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the project supports research and outreach programs on alternatives to pesticides used on Wisconsin crops. On March 1, the project is awarding almost $160,000 for 16 research and outreach projects. (See accompanying release)

“The Pesticide Use and Risk Reduction Project helps us expand College efforts to develop profitable farming systems that incorporate options to high-risk chemical pest management,” according to Margaret Dentine, CALS associate dean for research. “It is part of our long-term commitment to developing ways of growing crops in Wisconsin with fewer pesticides. Our efforts range from improving crop varieties so they can resist diseases without pesticides, to developing cropping systems and computer programs that help farmers control pests while reducing chemical inputs.”

The Pesticide Use and Risk Rejection Project is funded by pesticide overcharge funds administered by the Wisconsin Department of Justice and with matching funds from collaborating farm organizations and the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, which is home for the project.

Wisconsin farm groups collaborating with the project include: Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Wisconsin Apple Growers Association, Wisconsin Berry Growers Association, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives, Wisconsin Fresh Market Vegetable Growers Association, Wisconsin Ginseng Growers Association, Wisconsin National Farmers Organization, Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, Wisconsin Rural Development Center, Wisconsin Soybean Association, and Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association.

These farm groups, along with farmers from those organizations, provide substantial advice and input for the Pesticide Use and Risk Reduction Project.

“The project is an excellent example of cooperation between farm groups and the University,” says Rick Klemme, director of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. “We will be alerting producers to pesticides that carry a high level of risk according to the FQPA, and trying to help them find profitable ways to adjust their practices to reduce that risk.”

The FQPA requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review 9,700 tolerance limits it has set for individual pesticides and their uses. Miller says the Act will be implemented in stages, with EPA examining the most risky pesticides first. EPA must fully implement the law by August 2006.

According to Miller, the new tolerance limits may be more restrictive than in the past for several reasons.

? The FQPA requires the EPA to set tolerance limits that protect people from adverse chronic health problems caused by pesticides, such as damage to the human immune and hormone systems. In the past, EPA only set tolerance limits to protect the public against cancer.

? The Act requires the EPA to consider all exposure to a pesticide when setting tolerances in food. The agency will now consider exposure from all foods with exposure through water, public buildings, homes, gardens, and parks when determining tolerance limits.

? The EPA will now consider pesticides that share a common mode of toxicity as the same compound for purposes of assessing the maximum exposure. Therefore, the EPA will set limits for all organophosphate pesticides, for example, as if they were a single product.

? Because the immune and hormonal systems of children are especially sensitive to chemical exposure, EPA is setting special provisions to protect infants and children from compounds that disrupt hormones or otherwise interfere with human development.

Approximately half the herbicides, insecticides and fungicides used in Wisconsin fall into the EPA”s high-risk category. As such, they will be among the first to be reviewed, Miller says. Topping that list are organophosphate and carbamate pesticides, most of which are insecticides.

The EPA is in the process of determining preliminary risk assessments for 27 of 40 organophosphate compounds, Miller says. Thirteen are used on Wisconsin crops. They are: azinphos-methyl (Guthion, Sniper), bensulide (such as Prefar), dimethoate (such as Cygon), chlorethoxyfos (Fortress), ethoprop (Mocap), ethyl parathion (Parathion), naled (Dibrom), phorate (Thimet), phosmet (Imidan), terbuphos (Counter), methyl parathion (Penncap M, Declare), acephate (Payload, Orthene) and methamidophos (Monitor).

The preliminary risk assessments are available for review on-line through EPA”s FQPA web site at http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/fqpa/ or by calling the Office of Pesticide Programs Pesticide Docket at (703) 305-5805.