President favors pesticide ban less strict on cancer

August 20, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

The Clinton administration will recommend that Congress replace the controversial federal law banning all traces of cancer-causing pesticides in food with a less absolute standard, according to draft documents being shown to various parties in the dispute.

The ban, embodied in the Delaney Clause of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, would be replaced by another that would bar pesticides that only present a strong cancer risk.

Unlike the Delaney Clause, it would allow levels of a pesticide that theoretically could cause one increased cancer case per million people.

Farmers, food manufacturers and many environmentalists had long sought to ease the ban. The proposed new standard is part of the plan to reform pesticide regulation promised by President Clinton and EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner.

"Our goal is to move to a health-based standard -- based on actual risk -- at the same time we're moving safer pesticides onto the market more quickly and removing or eliminating the dangerous ones more quickly," said Loretta Ucelli, the EPA spokeswoman.

Other parts of the draft reform package include streamlined pesticide registration rules to speed new, safer pesticides to market; regular safety reviews, and a faster response by regulators when new information turns up about the health effects of a pesticide.

Apparently yet to be decided is how conflicts between state and federal pesticide rules would be resolved. The final administration package will be presented Sept. 9 at a joint hearing of Senate and House committees.

Critics have said that environmental and safety laws make more emotional than scientific sense.

"Everyone realizes that pesticide regulation is obsolete; the question is replacing it with something genuinely more effective, not just weaker," said David Roe, a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund.

"The fundamental problem with the system we've got now is it's tough in theory but it's dead in the water in practice."

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