Opposition Letter to Congress Regarding the Regulatory Fairness and Openness Act


Consumers Union * OMB Watch * Physicians for Social Responsibility
National Campaign for Pesticide Policy Reform * Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Center for Policy Research (CPR) for Women and Families
Mothers & Others For a Livable Planet * Healthy Schools Network, Inc.

April 3, 2000
Dear Representative:
We are writing to urge you to oppose a legislative effort that takes direct aim at America’s children, knowingly raising their risk of exposure to unhealthy levels of pesticides on the fruits and vegetables parents feed them every day.
With the unanimous passage of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) in 1996, Congress for the first time required that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consider children’s health when regulating pesticides. The FQPA requires use of complete and reliable data on exposure and toxicity; it is soundly grounded in the best available science. When complete and reliable data are not available to show that a pesticide use is safe for kids – as is still very often the case – the FQPA requires the EPA to incorporate an additional ten-fold margin of safety in setting standards to ensure that children are protected. Once adequate data are available, EPA can adjust the safety margin.
This approach makes sense. It rewards scientific knowledge rather than ignorance, and it gives the benefit of the doubt when data are incomplete to America’s children, rather than allowing them to continue to be exposed to risks of unknown magnitude. It allows parents to feed their children healthy produce, secure in the knowledge that it does not contain potentially harmful pesticide residues.
H.R. 1592, the so-called Regulatory Fairness and Openness Act, would turn this simple, yet vital, health protection on its head. Basically, H.R. 1592 says if we are unsure just how dangerous a pesticide is for children, we must continue to allow current use patterns and residue levels – even if some evidence suggests strongly that those levels are dangerous for children. It would prevent EPA from taking action to protect kids until it had collected every possible piece of data that it could theoretically collect on a pesticide. That would reward ignorance, perpetuating the incentives for manufacturers to delay needed testing that existed before Congress passed the FQPA.
Not only does H.R. 1592 prohibit any action to protect children while pesticide manufacturers generate data, it requires EPA to spend years implementing regulations and writing new reports every time it wants to act to be more protective of health – and then gives pesticide manufacturers all sorts of new ways to sue the agency to further delay any action. But H.R. 1592 only requires EPA to jump through these onerous hoops when it wants to act to reduce pesticide residues, not when it wants to keep them the same, allow increased residues, or rush a pesticide to market for so-called “emergency” use.
This makes no sense – unless the bill’s real purpose is to repeal the health safeguards Congress gave children when it passed the FQPA. Make no mistake about it, H.R. 1592 protects the rights of pesticide companies by sacrificing children’s rights to safe food. Don’t be fooled by proponents’ use of words like “fairness,” “openness,” “process,” and “sound science.” This bill is about one thing – putting the interests of pesticide manufacturers before the safety of America’s children.
Parents want to serve their children a healthy diet that includes the fruits and vegetables they need. They have a right to know that those foods are going to be safe to eat without unnecessary pesticide residues. Finally, in 1996, with passage of the FQPA, Congress gave the EPA the tools it needed to achieve that goal.
Please help us defeat this cynical attempt to repeal the most important environmental health law passed in the 1990s. Protect children, not pesticide manufacturers by opposing H.R. 1592.
Sincerely,
Consumers Union
OMB Watch
Physicians for Social Responsibility
National Campaign for Pesticide Policy Reform
Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Center for Policy Research (CPR) for Women and Families
Mothers & Others For a Livable Planet
Healthy Schools Network, Inc.