Farmer spraying pesticides on tomatoes.

Advocates Urge EPA Integration of Safer Chemicals and Organic Practices in Pesticide Assessments

August 21, 2023 | Source: Beyond Pesticides

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Choice program asks for public input into the expansion of its work to label green chemicals, the need to recognize the importance of holistic management systems in sync with nature looms large. Will simple chemical substitution ignore the value of natural processes that require nurturing for sustainable future? EPA’s Safer Choice is a non-regulatory program that identifies alternative chemicals for a number of uses that meet expanded safety criteria.

Tell EPA and Congress that substituting chemicals alone is not the Safer Choice. Use Safer Choice to eliminate harmful practices and emissions by compelling a transition to practices that build a climate- and sustainability-focused economy.

For problems requiring a chemical solution—for example, laundry detergents—EPA’s Safer Choice is a valuable resource, and consumers can look for products with the Safer Choice label, which requires that EPA review all chemical ingredients that must meet safety criteria for both human health and the environment, including carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, toxicity to aquatic life, and persistence in the environment. While EPA’s Safer Choice/Design for the Environment (DfE) program performs alternatives analyses on chemicals and identifies chemicals that are less hazardous, it stops short of identifying systems that make chemical inputs unnecessary. Substituting a less toxic pesticide, for example, is not the same as switching to available organic methods. [For pesticidal uses, the program is called Design for the Environment (DfE), which has so far been limited to disinfectants.]

Like Safer Choice, the National Organic Program (NOP) established by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), is a label-centered program. Relying on consumer demand for food without pesticides or other chemical additives, produced in a way that benefits health, ecology, and biodiversity, NOP establishes standards for producers to use the organic label. OFPA does not require organic producers to use safer inputs. Rather, it requires them to adopt a system consistent with organic principles—building soil, increasing biodiversity, and producing healthy food—using only inputs that are natural (nonsynthetic) or are approved for a specific use by the National Organic Standards Board and placed into regulations on the National List. The growth of organic food sales in the U.S.—exceeding $60 billion in 2022—is based on consumer recognition of the value of organic food.