Primary Barriers to Regulating Potentially Carcinogenic Pesticides in the United States: A Case Study of Glyphosate
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Due to the widespread negative health impacts associated with chemical pesticides, the purpose of this study is to explore issues within the EPA’s pesticide regulation process and examine whether avenues exist to make pesticide regulation more protective of public health. In examining pesticide regulation in the United States, this paper focuses on glyphosate, as the chemical has demonstrated potential to be a carcinogen through multiple sources of evidence, but is not acknowledged as such by the EPA. The research questions asked are: What are the primary barriers to banning potentially carcinogenic pesticides in the United States, and can the process used by independent agencies in determining glyphosate a probable carcinogen inform the EPA’s methods for coming to more sensitive hazard assessment conclusions? The key barriers to stronger restrictions on potentially carcinogenic pesticides are identified by interviews with experts in pesticide regulation in the United States who are knowledgeable about glyphosate. The primary barriers identified include the wide reach of industry influence, in both the formal and informal spheres, systematic issues within the Office of Pesticide Programs, such as program cuts and growing numbers of pesticides to review, considering the benefits of a pesticide during regulatory processes, only examining active ingredients instead of formulations, and giving too much weight to animal studies and not enough to epidemiology studies. Additional barriers specific to glyphosate include minimal low cost alternatives, widespread dependence of farmers on the herbicide, and errors made in the hazard assessment leading the EPA to not recognize its carcinogenic potential, paving the way for less stringent regulation.