MRLs and Crop Protection Materials are Improving but Complicated!
By Laurie Greene, Editor and Patrick Cavanaugh, Associate Editor
Rachel Kubiak, Environmental & Regulatory Affairs director with the Western Plant Health Association, based in Sacramento, commented that crop protection materials are improving. They target specific pests and they are set to maximum residue levels (MRL’s) when sold domestically or internationally. Yet, they are quite complicated.
“The materials are getting better,” Kubiak said, “but I would say that there is a large component that I don’t believe the activist community understands,” noted Kubiak.
Richard Cornett, director of communications for WPHA, blogged, “What most people are unaware of is that there is a highly integrated and multi-layered process of safety procedures to assure that pesticides are accessed for their safe use around humans and in the environment.”
U.S. EPA (a) scientifically reviews all pesticides for safety before registration, (b) involves EPA scientists at the Office of Pesticide Programs, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as other departments, (c) guarantees that any pesticide used in the U.S. has been accessed and is safe and (d) applies tolerances only to produce grown in or imported into the United States.
In California, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) enforces EPA tolerances by sampling produce for pesticide residues from throughout the channels of trade, both domestic and imported, including wholesale and retail outlets, distribution centers, and farmers markets.
“There are complications in making those products available to our growers,” Kubiak said, “because so much of what we produce in California is exported to other countries, and this MRL issue complicates things.”
Foreign countries follow an international standard called CODEX Alimentarus which contains a list of pesticide MRLs. EPA tolerances and International Codex MRLs are not harmonized; residue on an imported commodity can trigger a no-tolerance-established assessment and removal by California DPR while being a legal residue in other countries.
“I think this is a large area in which we could do better. Educating those who don’t live in our world on the difficulties in bringing new products to market isn’t as simplistic as they like to make it seem,” said Kubiak.