Food Safety:

USDA's Data Program Not Supporting Critical Pesticide Decisions

T-IMTEC-92-9: Published: Mar 11, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 1992.

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GAO discussed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Pesticide Data Program, focusing on whether: (1) the program is producing the data needed to make improved pesticide regulatory decisions; and (2) USDA has a data management strategy to produce data resulting from the program. GAO noted that: (1) USDA established the program to collect pesticide usage and residue data that can be used to improve government decisions on pesticide safety within USDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); (2) although USDA has made progress in collecting useful pesticide usage data, it lacks adequate residue collection procedures and reliable data on the quantity and types of pesticides applied on food crops; (3) USDA lacks an agencywide information resources management strategy critical to successfully collecting, processing, and disseminating pesticide data across the federal government; (4) the USDA pesticide usage surveys are proceeding on schedule, and EPA and FDA are generally satisfied with the published data; (5) problems that pose a significant risk to Pesticide Data Program success include a lack of specific written USDA agreements with EPA and FDA on program direction, a lack of a statistically defensible sampling plan capable of producing data equality based on the program's intended objectives, and USDA failure to determine adequate computer resources to process and disseminate the pesticide data; and (6) although GAO has made several recommendations to USDA to help establish a better program foundation, USDA does not agree with the recommendations, and has made little progress in implementing them.

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