EPA's Use of Benefit Assessments in Regulating Pesticides

RCED-91-52: Published: Mar 7, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) practices for considering the benefits of food-use pesticides, focusing on the: (1) EPA definition and quantification of the benefits of food-use pesticides; and (2) the role of benefit assessment in EPA tolerance and registration decisions.

GAO found that EPA: (1) considered the value of increased crop yields attributable to the use of one chemical pesticide over another as the primary measure of pesticide benefits; (2) performed a biological analysis to determine such benefits as enhanced crop yields and quality, and an economic analysis to express the biological benefits in dollar terms; (3) used partial budgeting and agricultural modeling to formally estimate the economic benefits of pesticides; (4) based initial tolerance-setting and registration decisions primarily on potential risks to human health and to the environment; (5) formally estimated and compared pesticide benefits and risks during its special review process; (6) also assessed benefits when it suspended a pesticide's registration on an emergency basis, and when it granted exemptions or waivers from standard registration requirements; and (7) derived its regulatory powers over pesticide registration and tolerances from the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.