Pesticides are chemicals that are used to destroy pests. In the agricultural industry, pesticides are classified into two categories, carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic. A carcinogenic pesticide is a substance or agent producing or inciting cancer. Conversely, a non-carcinogenic pesticide is substance that does not produce or incite cancer. Most agricultural pesticides were registered in the 1950’s, with no standard regulations. The most considerable standard prior to the amendments of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was, if a revocation of a pesticide occurred, would it have an impact on the prices or availability of food to the consumer? Today, the 208 pesticides used in the United States are regulated by the FFDCA. Bills like, The Delaney Clause and The Food Quality Protection Act have modified and enforced pesticide regulations. Consumer concerns with the usage of pesticides in the agricultural industry, in regards to health factors, have overwhelmed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and required they enforce pesticide regulations. With the help from other organizations such as the Senate Agriculture Committee , National Academy of Science , National Resources Defense Council , and Consumers Union , the EPA has made a notable progress. Throughout the years, consumers have pushed for research of the chemicals and substances that produce agricultural pesticides and what these pesticides do to our internal system. Congressman, James J. Delaney was also convinced that too many pesticide chemicals were found in foods. So in 1958, the House Select Committee investigated the use of chemicals in food products and amended section 409 of the FFDCA, in result creating The Delaney Clause.
The bill The Delaney Clause was implemented to avoid carcinogenic pesticides in the United States food supply. According to Congressional Reports, the intent of the bill was to reduce public exposure to a wide range of health effects, including nerve damage, reproductive failure, birth defects, and cancer due to hazardous pesticides. Although these health effects have not been proven in humans, it has been proven that some pesticides are carcinogenic in lab animals. However, the bill overlooked many aspects of the agricultural industry and encompassed many loopholes. For example, there were no requirements for the protection of infants and children. Pesticide residues, or rather allowable tolerances, were based on economic benefits. In other words, would it have an impact on the prices or availability of food to the consumer? If the pesticide was deemed carcinogenic, it was prohibited to weigh the benefits in the production of raw and processed foods. So, farmers had no obligation to inform consumers of the pesticide tolerances and residue levels. The bill, prohibited the approval of food or feed tolerances for pesticide residues in processed food or animal feed if the pesticide is found to induce cancer in man or animals, regardless of the level of risk. Nonetheless, the EPA interpreted the language of the amendment to mean “de minimis”, meaning low carcinogenic levels.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Les vs. Reilly, did not agree with the EPA’s interpretation of “de minimus” and rather ruled a strict literal interpretation of the 1958 amendment to mean, “zero risk”. The court case Les vs. Reilly challenged the EPA’s legal responsibility to research, test, approve or revoke agricultural pesticides.
Petitioners seek review of a final order of the EPA permitting the use of four pesticides [Benomyl on citrus and rice, Mancozeb on barley, grapes, and rye, Phosmet an insecticide, and Triflualin a Herbicide] as food additives although they have been found to induce cancer. Petitioners challenge the final order on the ground that it violates the provisions of the Delaney clause, which prohibits the use of any food additive that is found to induce cancer.
Les vs. Reilly settled on July 08, 1992. The case established the EPA’s legal responsibility to revoke certain carcinogenic pesticides found in raw and processed foods, no mater how small the risk. In result, under the provisions of the court, EPA has proposed to revoke nine “de minimis” pesticides. Lynn Goldman, EPA Assistant Administrator for Prevention, stated “This administration remains committed to comprehensive reform of our pesticide food safety laws, to establish a consistent, health-based standard for all pesticide residues in food. A standard is needed that will protect everyone, especially children…until then, EPA must comply with the Delaney Clause as