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U.S. Pesticide Use Could Be on Docket in Trade Talks


Monday, October 3, 2022   

As the United States enters into talks over a new trade framework with several nations, America's lax pesticide policy could be a sticking point for many countries.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework involves more than a dozen countries and has four negotiating pillars, including decarbonization and anti-corruption.

Christina Stucker-Gassi, program manager of healthy food and farms at the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, said large agribusiness companies in the pesticide industry typically have outsized influence when it comes to being part of the policymaking process.

"It's kind of just a fact of economics," Stucker-Gassi asserted. "They have more money in the game and that means they have more skin in the game, and a lot of times that means that the policies in place are built to support their view of things."

Stucker-Gassi pointed out many countries use a so-called "precautionary principle" where pesticides with disputed or unknown effects on human health are not approved. She emphasized it is not the case in the U.S.

Steve Suppan, senior policy analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, noted the use of pesticides already affects trade with some of the countries in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.

"Some of the IPEF countries have pesticide policies that are rejecting U.S. imports that have pesticide residues on horticulture and grain exports," Suppan observed.

However, he predicted companies will call for the elimination of "zero tolerance" policies on pesticides, arguing they will disrupt the delivery of food.

Stucker-Gassi explained states like Oregon already are taking stronger action on some pesticides. In 2020, it was among the first states to ban chlorpyrifos, a chemical with damaging effects on young children's brain development. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency followed suit in 2021.

Stucker-Gassi contended after years of ubiquity, a reconsideration of pesticides in underway.

"It's nice to see that people are taking a second look and thinking for themselves after decades and decades of heavily marketing these products," Stucker-Gassi remarked. "And hopefully moving forward we can have a healthier, more public safety approach."

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