Vol. 21, No. 1
from IUPAC Sponsored Symposia
Panel Discussion Session at the 9th International Congress of Pesticide
The Role of Publicly Funded Research in the Risk Assessment
and Registration of Pesticides
The 9th Congress offered an opportunity for university and government
pesticide scientists from around the world to compare experiences of
their funding situations, in a special session organized while the Congress
was in progress. Organizers informally asked nine scientists from seven
countries to address the questions:
- Is there a real decline in publicly supported research on conventional
pesticides? In what areas?
- What is the purpose and justification for publicly supported research
on conventional pesticides?
The resulting discussion and audience response indicate
that nonindustry research on commercial pesticide behavior and fate
in the environment is declining worldwide, and that the decline is reaching
levels that endanger the credibility of the risk assessment process
Scientists from the United States, Canada, Hungary, Egypt,
and Israel (invitees from Germany and the UK were unable to attend the
session) described how declining numbers of pesticide scientists in
the public sector are making it more and more difficult to achieve adequate
peer review of the science presented by industry in support of registrations
of pesticides. Redirection of scientists to alternative pest control
research, a general public aversion to the word "pesticide"
and a widely held but erroneous belief that commercial pesticides will
shortly be replaced by alternatives has resulted in budget cuts, declining
student enrollments, and nonreplacement of retiring scientists. Several
scientists described how fundamental research on pesticide environmental
impact (with the exception of endocrine disruption) is having to be
"bootlegged". Yet such fundamental research is needed to improve
the risk assessment of pesticides.
"Science is a public process," said one of the
organizers. "The risk of pesticides must be determined by the best
science available, but the process is increasingly being done in-house
by the industry, with review only under "proprietary data"
rules by regulatory agencies that are short-handed and desperate for
third-party reviewers of the process. When there were many smaller pesticide
companies, many of them depended on university and agency scientists
to help them with their research. That is becoming rare, leading to
a situation where the nonindustry scientists able to peer-review the
industry's research are disappearing."
The IUPAC Commission on Agrochemicals and the Environment
has begun a study of the problem, entitled
"Trends in research on agrochemicals: do we have the critical
mass of open science (publication) needed to both advance the basic
science of crop protection and to protect the public and the environment?"
Commission members from nine countries have agreed to report on how
their countries are dealing with this issue.
Scientists involved in pesticide regulation and risk analysis
are invited to communicate their perspectives and comments to the
Project Chairman, R.
USDA-Agricultural Research Service
Tifton, GA 31794 USA
or via e-mail at