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Science-based regulations sought

Some farm pesticide uses lost in early rounds under FQPA

American farmers will continue to lose valuable crop protection materials unless agriculture and agribusiness "continue to fight for scientific rather than political decisions throughout the regulatory process," says Charles Fischer.

The president and chief executive officer of Dow AgroSciences LLC, speaking at the annual convention of the Southern Crop Production Association (ACPA) at Amelia Island, Fla., said the American Crop Protection Association, of which he is chairman of the board, "has taken a more aggressive stance on the federal Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) than perhaps any other single issue" in the nearly 70 years of the organization's existence.

"But, despite some of our victories, we lost some pesticide uses in the early rounds of FQPA. And we will lose more," he said, unless the industry continues its efforts to insure regulatory fairness.

Science-based regulations are also necessary for biotechnology to realize its fullest potential, Fischer said, and the ACPA has taken an active role in issues related to biotech.

"During the past year, we participated in the public information steering team for the Council on Biotechnology Information, which created the U.S. and Canadian consumer outreach program. ACPA members helped guide development of communications messages that were both meaningful to consumers, yet did not sell out the traditional crop protection industry."

ACPA also intervened early in a lawsuit by the Greenpeace organization against Bt crops, and the suit was ultimately dismissed by the U.S. district court.

"Reasonable regulation of plant biotechnology is a global issue that must be resolved," Fischer said. "Unfortunately, this is often a one-step-forward, two-steps-backward process."

Citing the recent controversy over StarLink corn, which inadvertently was used in the making of taco shells, he said, "this will have a ripple effect throughout our industry." With such issues, "we need to find ways to address consumer concerns, while at the same time allowing farmers and processors to extract maximum value from agricultural biotechnology."

There are "no easy answers," Fischer said, for the goals of strengthening identity preservation efforts and making the regulatory process less cumbersome and more efficient."

"But, we all know the success of agricultural biotechnology is critical not only to the survival of the crop protection industry but also if biotechnology is to fulfill its promise of improving the diets and health of people around the world. From public misunderstanding and mistrust of biotechnology to the politics of pesticide regulation, there remain many battles for our industry in the coming years."

Two areas on which ACPA needs to focus its efforts, Fischer said, are children's health and product stewardship.

"Children's health has the potential to be the next big issue we face...and ACPA will be devoting more resources to this effort. We can't afford not to pay attention to this battle."

He said ACPA has worked with an industry-wide task force to develop a set of stewardship practices for the crop and specialty pest management industries.

"The expansion and promotion of uniform stewardship practices - from product discovery to container disposal - remains an important issue for us, and we have earmarked additional funds in 2001 to insure continued success of this initiative."

But, Fischer cautioned, "it won't be easy and it won't be cheap, and the reality is that the number of companies that contribute resources is dwindling." Industry consolidation, he said, resulting in "fewer, bigger companies," will mean fewer dues-paying members for organizations such as ACPA.

"At a time when our association's advocacy needs are increasing, our resources may be decreasing, so we need to pick and choose our advocacy targets - and be willing to pay for results."

To that end, Fischer noted, ACPA has approved a 15 percent increase in its 2001 operating budget "to allow us to focus on priority issues. But, we need more than money to be effective. All of us must commit to sharing the load - the sweat equity - of advocating. All of us must speak up for these priorities, for the sake of our industry and our future."

A new political landscape as a result of the November elections makes it important, Fischer said, "that we try to anticipate new issues that might have an impact on our industry and that we respond effectively to events we can't control or can't anticipate. We'll have to take some bold steps in some areas if we're to stay ahead of the curve - and probably some baby steps in other areas in order to adjust to the changing terrain.

"While we believe in our industry and what we do, we'd be naive to believe a lot of others understand us. We can't just sit back and believe everything will be all right without our having to do some real work to confront these challenges.

"We can't be the Lone Ranger," Fischer said, urging the SCPA members to continue forging alliances with other organizations in order to more effectively achieve goals.

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