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From December 17, 2001

Bush Administration Backs Off Human Testing of Pesticides

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reconsidering its earlier appeal to test pesticides on humans. This request drew strong criticism from environmental groups. On Friday, the Bush administration and the EPA asked the National Academy of Sciences for their recommendation of "whether to accept, consider or rely on research involving deliberate exposure of human subjects to toxicants."

According to a New York Times article dated December 15th on www.nyt.com, a spokesperson for the EPA said it would not accept results from human tests on pesticides until the NAS completed its evaluation of the ethical and scientific issues. "Formulating a policy that appropriately reflects our competing concerns in this matter will not be easy, and I thank the National Academy of Sciences for agreeing to assist EPA in evaluating these complex issues," said EPA's administrator Christie Whitman.

This NAS request for a recommendation temporarily allays environmentalists' concerns. They have argued that government acceptance of such studies from the pesticide industry is unethical and unscientific. The testing would involve studies from the pesticide industry on paid human subjects who volunteered for the experiments.

Alternatively, agricultural and pesticide industries argue that human testing yields more precise human tolerance measures than animal testing. "We are particularly concerned about 'third party' studies submitted by regulated entities for the agency's consideration," said Stephen L. Johnson, EPA's assistant administrator, in a letter to NAS.

Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, speculated that the Bush administration backed off of human testing because of its inconsistencies with the administration's opposition to stem-cell research.