Food Safety:

Difficulties in Assessing Pesticide Risks and Benefits

T-RCED-92-33: Published: Feb 26, 1992. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1992.

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GAO discussed federal regulation of pesticides, focusing on risk and benefit assessment of pesticides used in or on food. GAO noted that: (1) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Agriculture share responsibility for regulating pesticide use for food, screening out those pesticides that present unreasonable risk, and approving those that provide benefits; (2) methodology and data limitations create uncertainties in the assessment of pesticide risks or benefits; (3) gaps in knowledge of pesticide risks and benefits contribute to the uncertainties; (4) EPA does not consistently acknowledge uncertainties inherent in its assessments; (5) federal food safety agencies lack a coordinated strategy for systematically identifying, collecting, and managing key data needed to reduce assessment uncertainties; (6) weak management of information resources and poor information system designs adversely affect data accessibility, reliability, and utility; (7) agencies do not always verify the accuracy and integrity of pesticide risk and benefit data; and (8) controversial policy issues hampering pesticide regulation include differing legal requirements, application of differing risk standards, and EPA inability to establish policy or guidelines in several areas of risk management.

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