Chemistry International
Vol. 21, No.1, January 1999

1999, Vol. 21
No. 1 (January)
..Chemistry in Africa
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Chemistry International
Vol. 21, No. 1
January 1999

Reports from IUPAC Sponsored Symposia

Special Panel Discussion Session at the 9th International Congress of Pesticide Chemistry

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 "social contract."

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. Don Wauchope
USDA-Agricultural Research Service
P.O. 746
Tifton, GA 31794 USA

or via e-mail at don@tifton.cpes.peachnet.edu.

 

 

 

 

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