Good morning. The Center for Public Integrity is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization that aims to investigate and illuminate ethics-related issues that affect this nation. The organization was founded in 1990 by a group of Americans who were concerned about these issues, and it has a Board of Directors and Advisory Board of distinguished Americans. The Center is supported by contributions from foundations and individuals, as well as by earned revenue from news organizations and the sale of our publications. The report we are discussing today was supported by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The Center publishes investigative studies that serve as vital reference materials for journalists, academicians, and policy makers alike. The purpose of the Center is to bring important, otherwise inaccessible information to the attention to the American people. The study we are discussing this morning and other related data - in addition to specific information about our contributors - is available on our Internet Web site, at http://www.publicintegrity.org. [the entire study is available as a downloadable Adobe Acrobat file]
Since its inception, the Center has produced more than 30 investigative reports about public service and ethics-related issues. Today we release Unreasonable Risk: The Politics of Pesticides, which was researched, written, and edited by roughly 20 people at the Center. In putting together this investigative report, we conducted more than 100 interviews and also analyzed thousands of pages of data from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics, a wide variety of records from the Environmental Protection Agency, lobbying and financial disclosure reports filed with the Senate and House, and transcripts of scores of congressional hearing. This is the third of four "Congress and the People" studies we will release in 1998, capped by a major investigative, hardcover book about Congress.
Before getting to our findings, let me emphasize that Center for Public Integrity does not take formal positions on legislative matters, and we certainly have no "agenda" when it comes to public-policy issues related to pesticides. As with nearly all of our past reports released since 1990, our interest is straightforward-namely, examining the decision-making processes of government and whether or not they have been distorted in any way.
A little more than a year ago, the Center for Public Integrity, in collaboration with two prize-winning environmental journalists, made news across the nation with the publication of Toxic Deception: How the Chemical Industry Manipulates Science, Bends the Law, and Endangers Your Health. In that book, we examined four chemicals that are in widespread use in the United States: atrazine and alachlor, two leading agricultural pesticides; formaldehyde, the preservative; and perchloroethylene, the dry-cleaning solvent. We concluded that the Environmental Protection Agency-which is supposed to protect American consumers, farmers, and workers from toxic chemicals-had failed in that job, though we pointed out how often Congress has shared responsibility for the delay and inaction.
When it comes to regulating dangerous chemicals, why is it that federal government officials and Capitol Hill lawmakers have seemed for so many years as if they're swimming in quicksand, with about as much success? That's the question we set out to answer in Toxic Deception.
In this, our third "Congress and the People" study, we have asked the same question with respect to a different set of highly toxic chemicals: diazinon, 2,4-D, and other chemicals that millions of Americans regularly apply, or have applied, to their lawns; chlorpyrifos, one of the most common chemical weapons in the exterminator's arsenal and a common ingredient in many products you can buy t your neighborhood garden center or hardware store; and methyl bromide, a pesticide and fumigant that is hazardous to both humans and the ozone layer.
It is, of course, the role of our federal government-Congress, the EPA, and, to a lesser extent, the Food and Drug Administration-to protect us from potentially lethal products. Congress, however, clearly plays the most powerful role because of its oversight responsibility over the EPA, the FDA, and the pesticide industry. It can subpoena records and witnesses for public hearings on whatever subject it chooses, promulgate new laws, and withhold or increase the taxpayer dollars given to these federal regulatory agencies. It has the power, in other words, to set the public's agenda. To do its job most objectively and independently, of course, Congress should be unfettered and not beholden to any economic interest affected by its decisions.
Unfortunately, as we show in this study, that has not been the case.
Time and time again, Congress has put the economic interests of the pesticide industry ahead of the safety of the American public. From 1988 to 1995, for example, more than 65 bills were introduced in Congress to tighten pesticide regulations. Not one of them passed.
Two years ago, Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act, which replaced the infamous Delaney Clause-which stated, simply, that no processed food could contain an additive that "induces cancer in man or animal"-with a new way of evaluating the risks that pesticides and other toxic chemicals pose to humans and to the environment. Now, with the Environmental Protection Agency proceeding under the terms of that law, the nation's pesticide industry has decided that the time is right to wage war on the 1996 law.
In our study, we look at the pesticide industry's all-out drive to prevent the EPA from doing the job that Congress asked it to do. It has enlisted trade associations representing tobacco companies, breweries, farmers, and supermarkets, and others, under the umbrella of the Food Chain Coalition. Though most Americans have probably never heard of the Food Chain Coalition, it is the Godzilla of such ad hoc organizations in Washington.
We found that the members of the Food Chain Coalition and the companies they represent have poured at least $84.7 million into congressional campaigns since 1987. Some Capitol Hill lawmakers with key roles overseeing the regulation of pesticides have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from these interests. When will the chits be called in? They are being called in right now.
The pesticide industry is so powerful that, with the intervention of two powerful Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill, it has enlisted the Vice President of the United States in its war against the EPA.
Our study also looks at lawn chemicals and an allied organization that represents the manufacturers of these chemicals. As some of you may know, Monsanto Corporation, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Dow AgroSciences, and 32 other manufacturers of pesticides for home and garden use have banded together for lobbying purposes in an organization that calls itself Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment. What you may not know is that RISE and its member firms spent more than $15 million in 1996 to employ 219 Washington lobbyists, including 24 former House staff members, 22 former Senate staff members, ten former Executive Branch officials, nine former White House aides, four former Representatives, and three former Senators.
How deep are the industry's pockets? Since forming an ad hoc group called Industry Task Force II on 2,4-D Research Data, Dow AgroSciences, Rh=F4ne-Poulenc Rorer, and other manufacturers of 2,4-D-the nation's most widely used lawn chemical-have spent at least $34 million on studies and surveys to present to the EPA. Donald Page, the executive director of the task force, told us that reregistration of 2,4-D "is in the bag."
Either Mr. Page is in fact the Amazing Kreskin or something's desperately wrong in Washington. We suspect that the latter is true.
Where in all of this are the interests of the ordinary American represented. The answer, for the most part, is nowhere. In our study we tell the stories of many ordinary Americans, including that of Joshua Herb, who came into the world a healthy, happy baby but is now a ten-year-old paraplegic confined to his home with 24-hour nursing care, an oxygen system to breathe, and health-care bills of about $30,000 a month. As an infant, Joshua was exposed to Dursban, a particularly potent pesticide. His parents sued Dow Chemical Company, the parent company of Dow-Elanco (now Dow AgroSciences), which made Dursban, and won an out-of-court settlement. Vicki Herb, Joshua's mother, told the Center that chemical manufacturers have what she called "totally separate concerns." . . . "They're not looking out for health concerns," she told us, "they're looking out for their own monetary concerns."
That may help to explain why, in 1995, the EPA discovered that for ten years DowElanco had been hiding from federal regulators no fewer than 302 lawsuits and other claims for money damages alleging Dursban poisoning. The EPA's response was to fine DowElanco $876,000 -- an amount that the EPA attorney handling the case told reporters at the time was "relatively insignificant to a company as large as DowElanco."
Among the cases DowElanco sought to keep secret was one from Charleston, West Virginia, involving an infant named Joshua Herb.
Would there be more aggressive congressional oversight or new legislation to protect Americans from pesticides if Congress were not so dependent on the pesticide industry for campaign money and other forms of political largesse? Would Members of Congress be more objective in their oversight responsibilities if they had not received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from the industry or if their former colleagues and staff had not doubled or tripled their annual salaries as chemical-industry lobbyists, knocking on lawmakers' doors every day? Would Members of Congress be less sympathetic to the economic, cost-benefit rationales propounded by the industry as an excuse not to remove dangerous products from the market if they weren't taking large sums of campaign cash from them? Logic and common sense can only answer these questions in the affirmative.
When it comes to pesticides, in fact, the agenda in Congress today seems to be set by the industry. As a result, today, when it comes to basic issues of health and safety pertaining to people who use or otherwise come into contact with pesticides-and that's nearly all of us-Congress is more responsive to a single, special interest than it is to the broad public good. That is the disturbing message that flows from virtually every page of the report we release today.
Thank you. Before taking your questions, I would like to thank the terrific, tireless folks who produced this report: the director of investigative projects, Bill Hogan: the senior editor, Bill O'Sullivan; the chief of research, Bill Allison; the writers, Paul Cuadros, Alan Green, Curtis Moore, Annys Shin, Russell Tisinger, and Eric Wilson; the senior researchers, David Engel, Adrianne Hari, Sam Loewenberg, and Eric Wilson; and Center researchers, Angela Baggetta, Justin Buchler, Russell Eckenrod, Nicole Gill, Jennifer Goldstein, Abigail Lounsbury, Arfa Mahmud, Myra Marcaurelle, and Orit Tur=E9.
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