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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture 3 Economic and Regulatory Changes and the Future of Pest Management The process of producing food and fiber is inherently a biological one, but it is conducted in an economic and sociological context. The socioeconomic environment in which US agriculture is placed has undergone considerable changes in the last few decades. The changes reflect trends that extend well beyond agriculture and include globalization of trade in general, increasing industrialization, and emergence of a knowledge economy. Reflecting the changing socioeconomic standards are changes in the regulatory environment in which the agriculture enterprise must function. This chapter examines recent economic, institutional, social, and regulatory developments in the United States and evaluates their impact on pesticide use in agriculture. ECONOMIC AND INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENTS AND THEIR IMPACTS ON PEST CONTROL Over the last 2 decades, both the agricultural and general economies have undergone several major changes that affect and will continue to affect the way pesticides are used and pests are controlled. The changes include globalization, industrialization, decentralization and privatization, growth of the “knowledge economy”, and growth of the organic food market.
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture Globalization of World Food Markets Several policies have contributed to a reduction in trade barriers between nations and to expansion of export and import opportunities for producers and consumers in agriculture and manufacturing: Several rounds of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations led to a reduction in tariffs and a goal of a phaseout of subsidization and protection of many segments of agriculture. Regional “free trade” blocs have been established throughout the world and are constantly expanding. The European Union is the most long-lasting and successful example. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) established another major trade bloc which includes the United States, Mexico, and Canada and is expected to be expanded to include Chile and other Latin, Central, and South American countries as well. The demise of communism in central and eastern Europe and the more open trade policies in China have substantially expanded the volume of trade among the previous communist world nations and the United States and other democracies. Developing countries in South America, Asia, and Africa have gradually abandoned protectionist strategies. They now tend to reduce tariffs and enable expanded foreign trade and investment in their economies. Globalization and reduction of trade barriers increase competitive pressures and provide extra incentives to reduce costs and increase yields. They increase the demand for more effective and efficient pest protection and pest-control products. They also increase competitiveness in pestcontrol markets and can lead to expansion of facilities and markets for suppliers of superior pest-control products. Recent developments have reduced but not eliminated barriers to international trade. Countries and regions have a wide array of legislative tools (including environmental and agricultural policies) that discriminate against foreign suppliers. The volume of international trade in agriculture depends on the capacity to recognize and meet the needs of foreign markets and on the economic well-being of the buyers. US exports to Japan might be hampered by product quality and design limitations. The recent economic slowdown in Asian markets led to a slowdown in US food exports to some of these countries. Countries are still able to maintain their own separate environmental-and health-protection regulations even in the era of freer trade. Thus, Canada and Japan have had stricter pesticide-residue regulations than
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture the United States, and food-quality requirements set by European nations present substantial obstacles for exporters from North Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe (OECD 1997). Food-safety and other chemical-use regulations in target markets have affected chemical use in the United States by growers who export to these nations (Zilberman et al. 1994). Much the same applies to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or their products. The recognition that environmental and health regulations can be used as trade barriers has generated efforts to harmonize them and to reach a more uniform set of principles for pesticide use and environmental regulation in agriculture. Analyses of future roles of pesticides have to take a global perspective and be viewed within a context of increasingly harmonized sets of environmental regulations. Furthermore, the less advanced analytical capacity and expertise of some foreign countries have led to reliance on American regulatory and scientific decisions and knowledge in establishing pest-control policies abroad. Increased international coordination of regulations is likely to strengthen the interdependence of regulatory processes between the United States and other countries. The widespread introduction of GMOs into North American agriculture has led to a change in attitudes and practice in this regard. Recent meetings, including the UN International Biosafety Conference held in Montreal, highlight the major policy disagreements among the 130 nations participating. The export and import of GMOs are at the center of these disagreements, and the precautionary approach—where the import of genetically modified products can be banned simply as a precaution, in the absence of scientific evidence that such products pose health or environmental risks—is the primary issue of contention (Pollack, 2000). The globalization process affects the economic markets for agricultural chemicals. New chemicals and other pest-control technologies are now developed largely according to their global market potential. The pest-control solutions available to American farmers reflect the results of research, development, and production efforts that take place on a global basis. Thus, assessments of research strategies in the United States have to recognize efforts that are made elsewhere. In setting research priorities for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other government agencies, how they fit with efforts in other countries and where the US national investment is more effective must be recognized, given a global perspective on research efforts and assessment of what is done elsewhere. Also there are growing tendencies to form research alliances between nations to take advantage of increasing returns to scale in areas of relative strengths. One noted example is the successful cooperation of the US-Israeli Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) (see Just et al. 1998). The net benefits of BARD research were estimated to
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture be about twice the cost of the research program. The international food-research centers, such as the International Rice Research Initiative and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center are also major providers of knowledge; they generate technology useful mostly for developing countries, but there is still substantial spillover to the United States and developed nations (Alston and Pardey 1996). Thus, the perspective on research and development and on new products should be global and take into account all the collaboration and partnerships in research. Industrialization of Agriculture and Food Processing The structure of US agriculture has undergone drastic changes over the last 100 years. The industries that once employed more than 80% of the populace now rely on less than 2% of the people to feed the US economy and to export worldwide. Small family farms are increasingly replaced by larger organizations that rely heavily on purchased inputs, including labor inputs. While the array of activities conducted on the farm has declined, the agribusiness and food sectors that provide input and process agricultural products have increased substantially. Tens of billions of dollars are spent every year globally on pest-control products. The agrochemical industry is closely linked to the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries. It markets its products to a wide network of wholesalers and dealers. Over the years, the variety of products it provides has increased to include management information, pest scouting, and consulting in addition to raw materials. Modern agriculture has become knowledge-intensive, and many or most of the larger companies employ PhD scientists to manage their pest-control and irrigation activities, and a new set of professional crop-management consultants has sprouted throughout the United States (Wolf 1996). The food-processing sector continues to increase the treatment and manipulation of food products beyond the farm gate, and its share in overall food revenues has increased. The industry has adjusted to changes in consumer preferences and lifestyles. It augments its revenue by providing value-added products that include prepared meals (for such institutions as restaurants and hospitals), ready-to-cook meals, and a wide variety of food products. Various companies—from small restaurants to international giants, such as Unilever, Nestle 's, and Proctor and Gamble—have specialized in assessing consumer needs and producing and marketing products to meet them. The result is an immense set of differentiated food products, many of them with substantial brand recognition, and a food sector that is several times larger than agriculture. Agriculture has begun to adopt some of the characteristics that typify
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture the agribusiness and food sectors. Some producers of fruits and vegetables have begun to establish their own brand names, and producers of grains are being paid according to the quality of their products. More products are designed to meet specifications of retailers, and production and marketing efforts are coordinated with some of the giant chains (especially in fruits and vegetables). Industrialization is important in the livestock sector, especially in poultry. Such companies as Tyson Foods, Inc. have increased the efficiency of processing and the array of poultry products. Similar attempts are now being made to industrialize the production of swine. Two arrangements that typify much of industrialized farming are vertical integration (in which one organization is responsible for a variety of activities such as farming, processing, shipping, and marketing) and contracting (in which the marketers and processors of agricultural commodities provide farmers with inputs, including genetic materials and guidance about production processes and specification of the final product). With contracting and vertical integration, some of the functions of traditional farmers are changing. People who market the final products are now making many of the decisions regarding input and chemical use. Processors and marketers may also be held liable for some of the environmental side effects of production. Decentralization and Privatization Globalization and the emergence of international governing organizations with decision-making power over nations are accompanied by processes that move in the opposite direction. National governments give much decision-making and economic power to regional and state governments, and the power that was concentrated in national governments is distributed among a wide array of organizations and infrastructure. The power can be specialized and reflect various degrees of geographic focus. Decentralization and privatization have many consequences, which can affect the research, development, and practice of pest control. One such consequence is the transfer of technology from the public to the private sector. University knowledge has been transferred to the private sector for many years and has played an important role in the development of industries. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has had an office of technology transfer for about 50 years, and graduates and professors at MIT (and many other universities) have developed important industries and economic projects. Over the last 20 years, the magnitude of technology transfer from the public to the private sector has changed drastically. Nearly 100 offices of technology transfer have emerged, and collectively they represent almost every major univer
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture sity. These offices and the processes that they manage have been crucial in the evolution of biotechnology and will play an important role in the future. The impetus for establishing offices of technology transfer in many major universities was the awareness that private companies do not take full advantage of university innovations (Postlewait et al. 1993). This “waste” of knowledge reduced the social value of university research and led universities to develop institutions and arrangements to address the problem. Offices of technology transfer were established to identify university discoveries with commercial potential, to aid in issuing patents, and to search for private parties who would be interested in buying the rights to develop the patents. It was recognized that the private organization would develop the university patent only if it had exclusive rights. Thus, part of technology transfer is payment of royalties from revenues, income, or other benefits that accrue to the private companies from the patent. Technology-transfer offices are responsible for Initiating the technology-transfer agreement. Collecting royalties. Protecting against patent violations. Ensuring that buyers of rights actually use them (many technology-transfer agreements impose penalties if buyers of a right do not put in the due effort). Several thousand technology-transfer agreements between universities and private companies are in operation. These agreements generate revenue of about $150 million per year, but most of the revenue is generated by fewer than 10 of major breakthrough patents. The royalty rates change, but in most cases they are 1–5% of revenues generated by a patent. Practitioners agree that a multiplier of 40 reflects the direct contribution of such royalties to the gross national product. Obviously, the royalties do not capture much of the benefits, because it can take 8–10 years for an innovation to becom a commercial product, and the patent life is 17–20 years. The revenues from technology transfer, although substantial, are small relative to the amount of money spent on the research by the public sector directly ($9 billion) and constitute about 0.1% of the overall expenditures on education (Parker et al. 1998). Scientific discoveries have become a necessary precursor and first step of technological innovation. That has been most apparent in the last 20 years, in which transfer of genetic-engineering techniques played a major role in establishing the biotechnology industry. Administrators in technology-transfer offices discovered that, in many cases, established
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture private firms would not buy rights to develop new innovations that originated outside their own organizations. That was especially true with respect to new lines of biotechnology products. Technology-transfer offices were organized to connect university researchers with venture capitalists to establish startup companies that aim to develop university innovations. Most of the dominant firms in biotechnology (such as Genentech, Chiron, Amgen and Calgene) were established in this manner. Once the upstarts became solid and economically viable, some of them were taken over by the multinational pharmaceutical, chemical, and agribusiness firms. That move enabled the larger firms to augment their base of knowledge, research capacity, and product lines through increased returns to scale and registration, production, and marketing. Multinationals have an advantage in these stages of product development, and in many cases new products are integrated, distributed, and produced more efficiently once they are within their systems. The process of commercializing university innovations has an important effect on industrial structure and productivity. University researchers engage in new lines of research and develop products and innovations that would not likely be developed by research and development activities in the private sector. As Parker et al. (1998) argue, universities are a dominant source of ideas for innovation and increased competitiveness. Because of perceived economic risks, some multinational firms might not have invested in a number of products that were developed in universities. However, venture capitalists and some multinational corporations, such as pharmaceutical and life-science firms, support research in and development of new technologies at universities. On transfer of these technologies to the private sector, the products are commercialized and introduced to the marketplace. Because these new products tend to increase market supply, the monopolistic power of industrial conglomerates decreases (Parker et al. 1998). Most university research focuses on basic problems, but sometimes it leads to practical products. University research has the potential to increase both productivity and competition in the marketplace. The royalties of technology transfer are shared among university professors, universities, and departments. It has been a lucrative process for some university professors and changed the operation of university departments. Although some professor-entrepreneurs stop drawing salaries from the university or even donate funding, some continue to be on staff and use university resources. Thus, the border between public and private enterprises is somewhat vague. In addition to technology-transfer agreements and royalties, many companies become engaged in financing particular research lines with rights of first refusal of the research product. Thus far, it appears that technology-transfer agreements have not
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture prevented publication of research results, but some scientists claim that the agreements do create publication delays (NRC 1997a). Such delays in publication could be especially problematic if they affect the careers of graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and other scientists beyond the principal investigator. In addition, it is not clear how much profit and commercial motives affect research agendas of university researchers. Those issues are being deliberated and the outcomes probably will affect the structure of university research. Technology-transfer mechanisms evolve continuously, and this evolution should be studied and analyzed. Universities vary in the emphasis placed on technology transfer and education of their scientists on how to negotiate agreements with the private sector. Commercial firms believe that technology transfer offices generally overvalue inventions of their scientists and undervalue risks made by private firms (NRC 1997a). Increased sensitivity to differences in culture, mission, motives, and expectations among public and private research collaborators can increase the likelihood of success in these negotiations (NRC 1997a). The USDA not only is required to transfer its knowledge to the public domain, but also is encouraged to transfer technologies that originate in its laboratories to the private sector for commercialization. The 1980 Stevenson Wydler Act and its amendment, the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986, set up Cooperative Research and Development Agreements as a mechanism for collaboration between government and private research laboratories (NRC 1997a). The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engages in collaborative alliances with a variety of companies, including large multinational firms (adapted from USDA-ARS Technology Transfer Information Systems databases) in a few recent cases the public has expressed some concern with the outcome of the partnerships between federal agencies and private corporations. This is an important topic for further research. The resolution of these issues could influence the design of public-sector research and the ability of the public and private sectors to use research results. Privatization of Extension Services and Consulting Agriculture has become more science-based and requires much more specific expertise to enhance productivity. As the support and funding of extension services decrease, new types of institutions and private consultants are emerging. It was stated earlier that some large farmers retain their own inhouse expertise. Private consultants serve some small farmers. Sometimes, they work independently; at other times, they work with agrochemical or irrigation companies. Transmission of knowledge in the past was mostly the responsibility of the public sector, but knowledge is
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture increasingly privatized. In many cases, the clients of land-grant university extension services are now the consultants rather than farmers. In California, for example, extension offices work extensively with consultants and provide training for pesticide applicators and advisers. The privatization of knowledge provision has changed how pesticide-use decisions are made and has introduced new ways to enforce and regulate chemical use. The professional conduct and responsibility of consultants might become more codified and scrutinized, and they will be liable for misuse of pest-control substances. The proliferation and expansion of consultants in pest control are closely related to the growing use of consultants for other agricultural activities, including irrigation and soil-fertility management. With the emergence of precision farming, consultants compile field data and analyze chemical-use information to develop more precise and productive chemical-input recommendations for their clients (NRC 1997b). This knowledge base could be very valuable in pesticide-use decisions and pest-management options. Effective training and continued education of these consultants will affect pesticide-application practices and the future of pest control in the United States and around the world. Phaseout of Commodity Programs A wide array of agricultural support programs that originated in the 1930s are gradually being phased out. The phaseout is consistent with the globalization process mentioned earlier and aims to improve efficiency and competition in the economy. The main reason that the commodity support programs were introduced was the tendency of agriculture to attain excess supplies and thus low prices and low income for farmers (Gardner 1978). However, in many cases, the commodity programs have backfired and actually provided an incentive to increase supply. Structural changes in agriculture are increasing the economic viability of agricultural businesses, and congressional mandates that provide price supports to farmers are expected to expire by the year 2002. Of course, reappearance of low commodity prices could lead to reenactment of some support programs. Farmers are increasingly encouraged to rely on insurance instruments provided by private firms and public-private partnerships to manage their production and revenue risks. Future markets and contracts are expected to play an increasing role in reduction of price risks. Insurance has been suggested as a tool to address productivity losses due to pests and to provide farmers some economic incentive to switch from chemical-pesticide use to alternatives. If such insurance instruments were instituted, farmers might forego the use of economically
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture or environmentally expensive pesticides, knowing that they are insured against some types of risk associated with pests. Some government support programs—such as the dairy, peanut, sugar, and tobacco programs—continue. Through these programs and the policy processed behind them, the government continuously monitors agriculture and, although it is unlikely, deregulation might be reversed (for example, if farm incomes become extremely low). The federal government's role in supporting farmer income has been de-emphasized, but the United States continues to be strongly committed to providing public goods with large social benefits, such as basic research, outreach, and protection of the environment (USDA, 2000). Devolution The US government and many other countries' goverments are shifting some major responsibilities to state and local governments. Increasingly, local governments are addressing natural-resource management and environmental-quality issues. Thus, we might be entering an era with global markets and reduced barriers to trade combined with a wide array of diversified local regulations and strategies to manage natural resources. This committee envisions pest-control strategies that could evolve to more regional approaches. A regional policy might, for example, incorporate the public view on the agricultural enterprise and ecological, economic, and social factors influencing agriculture in a particular region. Such regionalization suggests a need for flexible government policies and diverse pest-management strategies to address pest problems in varied circumstances. Emergence of the Knowledge Economy The growing importance of science in the development of technology and the proliferation of computers and information technology are gradually making knowledge and information dominant factors in production processes and major sources of wealth (Romer 1986). One manifestation of the increased value of knowledge is the growing importance of intellectual-property rights. The evolution of the legal systems of patents, plant-protection laws, and trade secrets enables owners of specific technological knowledge, which is critical for valuable production processes, to collect some return on their investments associated with the development and use of this knowledge. Major chemical companies and other entrepreneurs are racing to support research and buy rights to knowledge that will enable them to control valuable product lines. Ownership of the rights to process innovations could enable companies to control the fate and
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture prices of many products that use their innovations. To some extent, the ability of a private firm to develop new products will depend on the availability and cost of new knowledge. The life of patents is finite, and the price and profitability of pesticides and other substances decline after patents have expired. Policies and regulations that will restrict and constrain the use of substances after patent expiration might be valuable to industry, especially to firms that wish to introduce new products as substitutes for older products. This set of incentives should be considered in evaluations of environmental regulations and other legal instruments used to phase out old chemicals in favor of new ones. In many cases, environmental side effects will be used to justify phasing out of new materials. We have knowledge and experience about the side effects of existing chemicals, but their replacements could present some unknown risks. Increasingly, refined measurement equipment and improved ability to analyze the composition of environments have led to more accurate identification of low-dose toxic materials in various environments. That can increase concerns with food safety and environmental side effects of chemical use, so more public education is needed. Improved ability to trace chemicals back to the source of their emission might result in stricter environmental regulation, especially because quantitative links between toxic concentration and risks to human health are in many cases ill-defined. The growing severity of environmental regulations might provide some justification for altering pest-control strategies by introducing new precision pesticide-application technology or for canceling some pest controls and setring the stage for introduction of new strategies. Increased differentiation in management of environments and products is an emerging trend. The computer revolution has increased the ability to collect data and monitor the behavior of consumers, farmers, and ecosystems. The resulting information has the potential to yield more refined management strategies that adjust actions for specific spatial and temporal conditions. For example, the agricultural management system that is information-intensive enables producers to adjust inputs during the growing season in response to changes in the weather (NRC 1997b). Some major agribusiness firms have recognized the value of production-management services and are shifting their emphasis from providing inputs, such as seeds and chemicals, to selling production-management services. Similarly, agribusiness and food-marketing firms are providing farmers with detailed product specifications and, in some cases, production guidelines as part of contracts with farmers. Thus, agriculture is moving toward a more integrated system in which the information-intensive agribusiness has taken control of decisions traditionally made by the farmer.
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture individuals with no personal, financial, or political conflicts of interest conduct an unbiased and objective study. Furthermore, the nature of the information to be collected requires sophisticated sociological, epidemiological, and statistical expertise. University personnel might be the most appropriate people to conductsuch studies. Even if such studies were performed, evaluating the results in terms of what constitutes an acceptable health risk will be difficult. Before the studies are conducted, it is important to determine what percentage of compliance with each of the provisions of the WPS can be considered sufficient. Additional Means of Decreasing Worker Exposure to Pesticides Other approaches have been recommended for decreasing worker exposure to pesticides, described briefly below. Ban on all or some uses of the most acutely and chronically toxic pesticides. Under the comprehensive pesticide reregistration engendered by FQPA, worker exposure and safety issues are under intensive direct scrutiny and analysis by EPA to decrease consumer exposure to pesticide residues on and in foods. One approach to reducing residues that is available through FQPA is the banning of specific uses of problematic pesticides. A large proportion of the residues encountered by consumers is on vegetables and fruits, which are the minor crops targeted by the 1992 WPS. Actions that decrease the use of toxic chemicals on minor crops to protect consumers should also decrease exposure of workers. The objectives of FQPA and some of the challenges inherent in banning specific uses are discussed in earlier in this chapter. The techology and monitoring required in enforcing FQPA could lead to the detection of illegal uses of chemicals that leave measurable residues on food products. Detection and prosecution of illegal use would be expected to provide deterrence in the future. Prescription use of restricted pesticides. The adoption of a medical model for pesticide use has been discussed for many years (Dover and Croft 1984). The general idea is that some pesticides that are considered to be reasonably safe will be purchased “over the counter” and those considered more problematic will be “prescribed” only for specific uses by a professional trained in toxicology, IPM, and safe pesticide use. In the past, this approach was never considered seriously, because of the infrastructure that would be needed to support it, and because of the potential for abuse. A recent report by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) (Coble et al. 1998) examined the pros and cons of prescription
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture use. It discusses options for determining who would be considered a qualified prescriber, how the prescriber would actually function, and how potential legal problems could be handled. According to CAST, a professional prescriber would be required to have pesticide education and experience with local agricultural problems, including knowledge about nonpesticidal solutions to agricultural problems. The prescriber would have to be insulated from personal and political pressures. There would be an obvious problem in giving “provider licenses” to people who work for manufacturers or distributors, no matter how highly qualified they were. Federal agencies or state departments of agriculture could be a source of qualified personnel, but a potential problem of bias could arise there because these departments also have a goal of promoting profitable farming enterprises. Finally, independent consultants could fill the role of prescriber. We lack sufficient qualified people from any source, so training programs would need to be put into place. A prescriber's function could range from writing local prescriptions and reporting to enhancing public and user knowledge of pesticide characteristics and IPM in general. Prescribers and companies that produce the “prescription pesticides” would have a higher liability exposure. The increased liability could be an important deterrent for both parties. Any increase in product labeling associated with prescription use will serve as a disincentive for manufacturers to take advantage of this approach. An alternative to prescription use would be “exceptions to labeled use” that could be permitted if a prescriber were involved, but this option would shift the legal burden from the manufacturer to the prescriber. The CAST report warns that building the infrastructure needed for instituting prescription use would take time and money, and maintenance of the system would be expensive. The report suggests careful analysis before any steps in this direction are taken. However, California has implemented a program similar to the pesticide-prescription approach through its Department of Pesticide Regulation when it began testing and licensing pest-control advisers (PCAs) in 1971. The department has since continuously raised the education and experience requirements for licensing PCAs and required annual course work for license renewal. The PCAs have the responsibilities of making determinations for pesticide use or alternatives such as biocontrol in agricultural and nonagruicultural settings. They are licensed to prescribe restricted use-pesticides, such as organophosphates and methyl bromide. They are required to report their recommendations to the state as part of a state pesticide-monitoring program (California Department of Pesticide Regulation, 2000). Improvement of pesticide-application tools, packaging, and
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture formulations. Over the last 20 years, there have been important advances in pesticide-application technology. Many of the advances have been implemented, especially for class I pesticides. Entire engineering groups in agrichemical companies and in university departments are devoted to application technology. Ultralow volume, geographic information system applications, drip irrigation, chemigation, and prepackaged ready-to-use containers have all reduced the exposure of agricultural workers (see Table 3-1). Some changes in formulations of pesticides that are used in household products are needed. The basic change would be to prohibit sale of highly concentrated formulations. That would lower the impact of accidental spills, ingestion by children, and spraying of higher-than-needed concentrations. Addition of odorants or dyes to pesticides at concentrations that would match the risk of specific pesticides. A characteristic of pesticides that results in worker-safety problems is the lack of immediate feedback to exposed workers. When a worker is hurt because of malfunctioning or misused farm equipment, the cause of the injury is clear to the TABLE 3-1 Application Technologies with Potential to Reduce Pesticide Risks Problem Application Technology Drift reduction Electrostatic sprayers Hooded sprayers Air-assisted sprayers Spray additives Low-pressure nozzles More precise application Baits Weed-identification sprayers Sprayer injection systems Speed and flow monitors Field mapping and GIS systems Variable-rate application Applicator safety Closed systems Direct-injection systems Prepackaged, ready-to-use containers Source: Hall and Fox, 1997.
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture worker, and the worker can then take precautions to avoid a similar injury in the future. In contrast, a worker can be exposed to a harmful dose of a pesticide without knowing it. A worker who feels the symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning might not know whether the symptoms are due to a pesticide, hot weather, a virus, or food poisoning. Unless the worker has been told, or seen signs indicating, that he or she has been in a pesticide treated area before the restricted entry interval has elapsed, it is difficult to determine cause and effect. In the case of chronic or delayedonset impacts of pesticides, it is always difficult for the worker to determine cause and effect. If there were full compliance with EPA WPS, a worker would have a general idea of his or her level of exposure. Because evidence indicates that is impossible to get full compliance, it would be useful to develop a more foolproof mechanism to provide immediate feedback to workers who have been exposed to harmful levels of pesticides. In principle, a straightforward approach for decreasing the length of the feedback loop is to add odorants or dyes to pesticides, with the intensity of either signal being related to the danger of exposure. The principle of using odorants to signal danger is not new. Odorants have been added to odorless natural gases for over 7 decades (Fieldner et al. 1931). The odorant is set at a concentration that a person could detect when the natural gas concentration reached one-fifth the minimal explosive concentration (Cain and Turk 1985). A substantial amount of research was conducted to determine what odorants in what concentrations would be adequate to warn citizens of natural gas leaks (Robertson 1980, Venstrom and Amoore 1968, Semb 1968). It demonstrated substantial variability among individuals in ability to perceive odors (Schemper et al. 1981, Cain et al. 1987, Cain and Turk 1985). Some of the variability was due to age, sex, and health. The sensitivity of a general group of people can vary by a factor of 16 for some odors (Amoore and Hautala 1983). A small percentage of people who are anosmic and cannot perceive odors, but they can perceive nasal irritants, such as allyl alcohol (Amoore and Hautala 1983). Another component of odor sensitivity is level of awareness. People who are aware of the possible presence of an odor can sometimes detect it at a concentration that is only about 4 % of that needed by a person who is misinformed about the potential for presence of an odor (Amoore and Hautala 1983). People have been shown to quantify the concentration of some odors (such as pyridine) more easily than other odors (such as iso-3-hexene-1-ol). All those characteristics of odors are assessed in determining an optimal odorant for a given situation. In the case of agricultural workers, typically, a number of people work together, so there is little
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture chance that an anosmic person will be isolated or unaware of the odorant. And anosmia can easily be determined with a scratch-and-sniff test (Cain and Turk 1985) during pesticide training sessions. Such tests could also be used in training because odor memory enhances detection. Choice of an odorant would depend on whether the goal is to have workers simply detect the odor or quantify its intensity. Many commercial pesticide formulations have distinctive odors that come from the pesticidal compound, the formulation ingredients, or impurities. For example, workers can smell most formulations of chlorpyrifos. Unfortunately, the intensity of the odor associated with currently used pesticides is not correlated with the risks associated with exposure to them. Some cities (such as Phoenix, AZ) have ordinances that restrict the use of odoriferous pesticides on farms near residences and schools. That has sometimes resulted in farms using pesticides that are less odoriferous but more toxic than a pesticide with an unpleasant smell. If the intensity or perceptibility of the odor associated with a pesticide were directly related to the potential harmfulness of the compound, workers would get clear indications of dangerous situations, whether or not their employers informed them of the situation. Because odoriferous compounds, by their nature, must be volatile, their intensity decreases with time. Formulations of odorants could be developed that would decrease in intensity in a manner that simulated the decreased danger associated with a specific pesticide application. It would probably be best to use a single general type of odor to signal pesticide danger so that workers and other people would get one clear signal. Keeping one basic odor associated with natural gas has worked well. Tests of pesticide concentrations on the skin of pesticide applicators have shown a high degree of individual variation; for example, there was a range of a factor of 100 in residues of alochlor on the hands of 27 alochlor applicator and mixers because of differences in individual behavior (Sanderson et al. 1995). If applicators used formulations with odors, they would be aware of self-contamination rates. Because pesticides have differing rates of penetration of clothing, it might be difficult to develop formulations of one odorant that would perfectly mimic all compounds. Research on this subject is lacking. Many problems could be associated with both development and licensing of pesticide formulations containing odorants. However EPA and industry have already demonstrated that such problems can be overcome. Because of special health risks associated with them, methyl parathion, paraquat, and methyl bromide now contain odorants (referred to as stenching agents). In the case of methyl parathion, some household pest-control companies were illegally spraying inside houses with this compound (EPA
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture 1997a), presumably because it is inexpensive. Many cases of severe illness resulted (EPA 2000). EPA worked with the manufacturer, Cheminova, to add a stenching agent to the formulation (packaging requirements were also changed). There have since been no reported infractions of the law. Paraquat is one of the most toxic agricultural herbicides (Stevens and Sumner 1991). There is no effective antidote to paraquat once a person has been overexposed and it has been involved in many accidental deaths and suicides (Blondell 1996). In 1988, the manufacturer of paraquat, Zeneca, added a stenching agent, changed the color of the formulation, and added an emetic. Data sets from California and from the entire United States show about a 50% decrease in poisonings related to oral paraquat exposure since the formulation was changed. A Zeneca official indicated that some farmers do not like the stenching agent but that most continue to use the product. The odor of the new formulation of methyl parathion can be smelled in recently sprayed fields, but it is not always easy to detect it (personal communication, P. Ellsworth, Univ. of Arizona, Nov 1, 1998). Poor detectability in field conditions might reflect the fact that the odorant was developed for closed buildings. The paraquat odor is difficult to detect after the compound is sprayed; this characteristic does not present a limitation, because paraquat is not dangerous after it is sprayed. The odor in paraquat is aimed at protecting mixers and applicators and intentional abusers of the pesticide. For most pesticide uses, it would be important to use an odorant concentration that could be detected in the field. The identity of odorants in methyl parathion and paraquat is confidential business information, so detailed information on the composition of most of the odorants and on how the manufacturer adds odorants is not available. What is clear from these three cases is that the technical and regulatory problems associated with adding odors to pesticides are not difficult to solve. In a number of informal studies, investigators have added dyes to pesticides as a means of training pesticide applicators (Paul C. Jepson, Oregon State University, November 1, 1998; Allan Hruska, Zamorano Univ., Honduras, Central America, November 2, 1998, personal communications). The training sessions are reported to have been highly successful. On the basis of short-term participant response, the participants were generally shocked by how much pesticide (dye) was deposited on their clothing and bodies. The demonstrations showed applicators who use ground equipment how important wind direction is in determining the amount of peticide deposited. In at least one case, a potato defoliant, Dinoseb—dinoseb2-(1-methylpropyl)-4-6-dinitrophenol —had a yellow color that dyed unprotected hands of applicators. Anecdotal information
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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture indicated that applicators handled this pesticide more carefully than other pesticides. The incorporation of odors into pesticide formulations is feasible and effective. The use of dyes in formulations has received little attention but could work well. Those two related approaches for reducing health risks of agricultural workers require substantially less infrastructure to implement than the prescription-use approach. One of the major advantages of dyes and odorants is that workers are provided direct information on exposures. Assessing the best approaches and compounds for specific situations will require detailed research that could, at least in part, be conducted in the public sector. The US farm-worker population is relatively small and well informed compared with agricultural workforces in poor countries. Any simple odor or dye materials and methods developed for shortening the feedback loop for US workers could be used by other nations where worker exposure is likely to be much worse. Legislated Reductions in Pesticide Use Several factors continue to provide an opportunity to develop safer products with the same efficacy as chemicals. Societal concerns about chemical pesticides—including worker safety, animal toxicity, and groundwater contamination—continue to increase in the United States and around the world. Northern European countries (Denmark, Sweden, and Netherlands) have legislated a 50% reduction by the year 2000 for farm uses of chemical pesticides. Switzerland pays farmers large subsidies to farm organically and provides minimal or no subsidies to farmers who use chemical pesticides in their crop-production systems. Many Asian countries have banned classes of toxic chemicals. The Clinton administration has stated that, by the year 2000, 75% of US farmers should be practicing IPM; and it has initiated programs to help farmers to reduce use of synthetic pesticides (Coble 1998). REFERENCES Agrochemical Insider. 1998. Special Edition, June 1998. Pasco, Wash.: Agricultural Development Group. Agrow. 1997. Increase in Swiss Organic Farming. 292:9. PJB Publications Ltd. Agrow. 1998a. Financial Support for Organic Farming in Poland. 304. PJB Publications Ltd. Agrow. 1998b. Croatia Supports Organic Agriculture. 301. PJB Publications Ltd. Agrow. 1998c. France to Invest in Organic Farming. 296:11. PJB Publications Ltd. Alston, J. M, and P. G. Pardey. 1996. Making Science Pay: The Economics of Agricultural R&D Policy. Washington, D.C.: AEI Press.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: