Environmental safety: Roundup and other pesticides face rigorous review
Published: Tuesday, June 28, 2011, 7:03 AM
By Katy Coba
The June 20 Oregonian editorial "Re-evaluate Roundup" contains several references to the Oregon Department of Agriculture and a viewpoint that ODA needs to perform research to redetermine whether glyphosate — the active ingredient in the pesticide product Roundup — causes human health or environmental problems. The editorial gives ODA an opportunity to clarify how pesticides are tested and evaluated to ensure they are safe.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the role and responsibility to evaluate pesticides. Nearly all 50 states, including Oregon, rely on the lengthy and detailed federal process to review and assess a product's safety and efficacy before it can be registered for the marketplace.
ODA does not have the expertise, resources or state-directed responsibility to conduct research on pesticide products.
EPA allows a pesticide's distribution, sale and use only after manufacturers meet regulatory requirements. The pesticide manufacturer must provide data from tests done according to EPA guidelines. EPA requires a great deal of third-party research — covering many years of tests and studies — before a pesticide is allowed into the marketplace. EPA assesses a wide variety of potential human health and environmental effects associated with the pesticide product's use. EPA's risk assessments undergo peer review by scientific experts.
ODA has an important role to play in protecting Oregon's environment and public health by ensuring the proper and legal use of pesticide products. We ensure the proper information is accurately contained on the product label. We license commercial and public pesticide users by first assessing their level of knowledge and expertise through examinations they need to take and pass prior to licensing.
We provide outreach and education to both licensed pesticide users and the general public. We investigate complaints of alleged pesticide misuse and take enforcement action when appropriate.
But again, EPA is in the business of determining whether a pesticide product is safe for humans and the environment, not the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The federal agency has the resources, the expertise and the authority to do so.
It's important to point out that under the Food Quality Protection Act, EPA must find that a pesticide poses "a reasonable certainty of no harm" before that pesticide can be registered. The process is similar to the way FDA approves medicines for humans. As crop protection tools, pesticides must go through the rigors of tests, studies and evaluation.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is one of the most heavily researched and studied pesticides to come before EPA. ODA is satisfied that our federal partners have done due diligence in assessing the risks of Roundup and in deeming it safe for use.
Rest assured, glyphosate has gone through the same rigorous registration evaluation process that has been used for all pesticides available for use in Oregon and the U.S.
Katy Coba is director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.