CropLife America (CLA) president and CEO Jay Vroom spoke last Friday about the history of advancements in the crop protection industry with attendees of the University of Utah’s Wallace Stegner Center’s 17th Annual Symposium, “Silent Spring at 50: The Legacy of Rachel Carson,” in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Vroom presented to an audience of approximately 150 law students, faculty, alumni and interested community representatives about the influence of Rachel Carson’s seminal book, and its impact on the regulatory framework, environmental awareness and development of crop protection products. Other conference speakers represented the fields of academia, public health and conservation, including: Philip Landrigan, Ph.D., of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine; Mark Lytle of Bard College; Paul Holthus of the World Ocean Council; and Terry Collins of Carnegie Mellon University.
In his presentation, Vroom emphasized that whether it’s through improved chemical formulas, more precise applications or integrated pest management programs, the crop protection industry continues to advance and help growers safely and responsibly produce food, fiber and renewable fuel.
“'Silent Spring' launched the modern environmental movement, and it is important to reflect on the impacts made on U.S. agricultural policy and the regulation of crop protection products,” said Vroom. “By looking back at the societal changes ignited by Ms. Carson’s writing, we can also look forward to future research and development opportunities and the creation of better modern agricultural tools. CropLife America is excited to engage in an open dialogue about this important book, discuss the improvements the crop protection industry has made in its wake, the advancements still happening every day, and how modern agriculture better interfaces with today’s environmental concerns.”
In his presentation, Vroom highlighted specific changes spurred by the 1962 publication of Silent Spring:
• The creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Amid growing consumer concerns about environmental protection, President Nixon created the U.S. EPA in 1970 to protect human health and the environment. The creation of EPA marked a transition to a more rigorous crop protection registration and regulatory program. It also created a collaborative atmosphere between industry and the Agency.
• A revised Federal Fungicide, Insecticide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA): With the creation of EPA, FIFRA was revised to provide new safety measures. Three separate amendments from 1972 through 1992 significantly updated the original 1947 law, and established additional rigorous standards for crop protection including: transferring pesticide regulation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to EPA; re-registering older pesticides to ensure compliance with new standards; and new worker protection measures. In addition, the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act adds special safety margins for infants and children, and the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA), passed first in 2002, increased industry fees to enable EPA to expand scientific evaluation capacity and enhance timely decision-making.
• A dedication to research & development: Research and development (R&D) is a core pillar of the crop protection industry. Information from the USDA Economic Research Service shows that private investment in R&D for crop protection products has grown significantly, from $42 million nominal in 1962, to $793 million in 2010.
“The crop protection industry is committed to hearing and responding to consumer questions and concerns about U.S. agriculture, and to better communicating our investment and dedication to protecting human health and the environment,” continued Vroom. “Speaking at this conference with the University Of Utah College Of Law is a unique opportunity to join in this dialogue surrounding Silent Spring and take this conversation one step further.”
Thorough testing, science-based regulation, and continued investment in modern agricultural tools and techniques all contribute to the success of U.S. farming. With the collaboration of scientists, industry and regulatory agencies, agriculture looks vastly different than what was portrayed by Silent Spring 50 years ago. To view a special interview that Vroom recently held with Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, on these issues and more, visit www.croplifeamerica.org/news/multimedia-resources/Jay-Vroom-and-Ken-Cook-Discuss-Silent-Spring. For additional information on the regulation and safety of crop protection products, visit www.croplifeamerica.org.