Lawmakers lambasted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Thursday for increasing the maximum allowable level of pesticide residue in agricultural goods after being lobbied by a manufacturer of the product.
The FDA released on Wednesday last week the amended version of the Standards for Pesticide Residue Limits in Foods (農藥殘留容許標準), which revises upward the legal amount of residue of 22 pesticides in 128 fruits and vegetables.
The most criticized of the changes have been the relaxing of limits for fluopyram and dimethomorph, pesticides often used in the growing of tea and vegetables. The ceiling for fluopyram was raised to 6 ppm for tea products, whereas that for dimethomorph was increased to 10 ppm for cabbage and other vegetables.
Fluopyram has been linked to increased risk of thyroid and liver cancer. Dimethomorph has shown lower toxicity to humans but has been found to damage kidney and liver function, as noted by Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Chen Yi-ming (陳宜民) during a legislative session Thursday. “Japan, Australia and the European Union prohibit fluopyram in tea cultivation,” Chen said, warning that the FDA’s move could not only jeopardize public health but scare other countries away from Taiwan-grown tea exports. Eight lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party echoed Chen’s statement at a joint press conference Thursday, accusing the agency of carelessness in making the adjustments.
Gov’t Denies Health Risk
Also Thursday, reports that the agency had raised the allowable level of fluopyram at the request of a pesticide manufacturer were confirmed by Liu Tien-chen (劉天成), a division chief of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (防檢局).
Liu defended the decision, saying: “It is completely normal for pesticide manufacturers to report to the government on new drugs.” The government would determine whether a lower amount of the pesticide could provide the same effects, he said. If so, he added, the FDA would revise back down the legal permissible limit.
Other government officials argued that due diligence had already been done. Feng Hai-tung (馮海東), deputy director of the bureau, said that requests to use fluopyram in tea cultivation had been approved by the body only after two years of investigation. “Fluopyram has already been used in fruit production in the nation, including for papaya, lychee and longan,” Feng said, while reiterating that the pesticide did not pose a threat to human health.
Later Thursday, Deputy FDA Director Lin Chin-fu (林金富) agreed to arrange for experts to explain the justification of the adjustments next week. Lin also reiterated that the agency would wind back the increases if experts found them to be unwarranted. FDA food division director Pan Chi-kuan (潘志寬), who joined Lin at the press conference, said that “the use of pesticides varies with location.” The reason that some countries do not allow fluopyram is because there has never been any demand from farmers there for it, Pan said.