History and Overview of Pesticide Regulations

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act are the cornerstones of pesticide regulation. They initially focused on ingredients. In 1947, amendments to suspend and cancel pesticides were added but also provided for registration of pesticides under protest. Some milestones that evolved into current regulations are as follows:

A. In the mid-1950’s, the Delaney Clause was added to the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. This amendment prohibits the establishment of any food additive regulation that would authorize residues in or on processed food or feed of any pesticide that has been found to induce cancer when ingested by man or test animals.

B. In the early 1960’s, the first “food scare” concerning potential cancer- causing pesticides in food occurred. The affected crop was cranberries, and the pesticide was aminotriazole.

C. During the late 1960’s Silent Spring was published, and heightened environmental concern caused U.S. Department of Agriculture to initiate cancellation action against DDT.

D. Substitutes to DDT were acutely toxic organo-phosphate pesticides. There was a need to assure individuals applying these materials were competent.

E. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created during a reorganization of the Federal government in December 1970. Pesticide Regulatory functions were transferred from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Department of Agriculture to the newly created EPA. 

F. EPA cancels the use of DDT.

G. In 1972, Congress passed the current version of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In brief, it did the following:

1. Defined a pesticide as any substance or mixture of substances intended to kill, repel, or mitigate a pest or to regulate the growth of a plant.

2. Created Restricted-Use Pesticides as those that can be used by or under the direct supervision of a Certified Applicator. Restricted-Use Pesticides are those that have a greater chance of causing adverse impacts to humans and the environment.

3. Created an Applicator Certification Program (including State certification plans).

4. Standardized pesticide labels so that they include:

    • Brand Name
    • Use Classification (Restricted Use or Non-restricted Use)
    • Ingredient Statement
    • Net Contents Statement
    • E.P.A. Registration Number
    • E.P.A. Establishment number
    • Statement of Practical Treatment (First Aid)
    • “Keep Out Of Reach Of Children”
    • Precautionary Statements (Hazards to Humans and Wildlife)
    • Directions for use

5. Made the pesticide label the law. All statements on the label must be adhered to by all users and sellers. It is also illegal to make available restricted use pesticides to non-certified personnel.

6. Allowed states to administer equal or more stringent programs under supervision of the EPA. All 50 states now participate. Hawaii’s program is administered by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. The State of Hawaii has its own laws and rules.

1996 – Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act which requires EPA to use different risk assessment procedures for pesticides in food. The Delaney Clause was eliminated. All pesticides with a common mechanism of toxicity are considered for risk assessment. All routes of exposure, oral, dermal and inhalation are considered. An extra margin of safety is applied to protect infants and children. EPA may only register/reregister a pesticide if there is a reasonable certainty of no harm.