The US congress is considering whether to temporarily ban the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using human tests to determine whether a pesticide should be marketed. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill will soon decide whether to place a one year moratorium on the conduct and use of studies that expose participants to pesticides. In most cases, trials are conducted by companies seeking to have their pesticides approved by the agency for marketing.
The Republican controlled US senate voted 60 to 37 to enact, such a moratorium, in an amendment to the spending bill that funds the EPA. The amendment would prohibit the agency, beginning on 1 October, from conducting human exposure tests or using data from tests conducted by third parties in its pesticide risk assessments. An identical amendment was passed by the House in May.
The Pesticide companies became interested in human testing seemingly in a bid to circumvent a 1996 law that made it more difficult to use animal tests to meet agency standards for protecting vulnerable populations such as children from pesticide residues. The EPA now considers human testing data on a case by case basis, rejecting only experiments deemed scientifically unsound or 'fundamentally unethical' by EPA staff.
"The moral and ethical issues surrounding these pesticide experiments are overwhelming," California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, who introduced the amendment, said after the vote. The Pesticide industry, represented by the Washington lobbying group CropLife America, adds that it is 'troubled by the blatant manipulation of the facts' by Democratic senators. "Sound science and public health protections have affirmed the safety and ethics of human data studies,' the group said in its statement.
An alternative amendment, sponsored by Republican Senator Conrad Burns, also passed the senate by a vote of 57 to 40. That version would allow the EPA to use third party human tests in licensing decisions, within careful constraints. Unlike the Boxer amendment, it does not prohibit the EPA from conducting its own tests. A joint House Senate committee is expected this summer to determine which version prevails.
(Source: Nature Medicine)