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As New Trade Talks Evolve, Pesticide Concerns Enter the Discussion

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Thursday, September 29, 2022   

The U.S. is talking with several nations as part of an emerging framework for trade policy. But in the Midwest, there are concerns about the ripple effect on farmers and consumers when it comes to pesticides.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework involves more than a dozen countries and has four negotiating pillars, including decarbonization and anti-corruption.

While there are motivations to move away from standard trade ideals, Steve Suppan - senior policy analyst for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy - said influence from large agribusiness firms still might complicate things. Pesticides is one of them.

"Some of the IPEF countries have pesticide policies that are rejecting U.S. imports that have pesticide residues on horticulture and grain exports," said Suppan.

He predicted that will lead to calls for the elimination of "zero tolerance" policies, with companies arguing they'll disrupt the delivery of food. There's added concern these discussions will happen behind closed doors.

Organic farmers in Minnesota argue that the U.S. already has lax pesticide regulations, and the country should focus on making them stronger and eventually phasing out use of these chemicals.

Alex Schwartz - lead farmer of Hanger Farms, which grows organic products in Lino Lakes - said he feels a long-term term plan to reduce U.S. reliance on pesticides could help minimize disruptions to the world's food supply.

He said there's growing research about the impacts on farmer health, as well as food safety and pollinators like bees.

"That could be one of the most difficult problems facing agriculture later in the 21st century," said Schwartz. "If we do not have a significant population of honeybees to pollinate the crops - that we're going to be in a lot of trouble."

A proposal in Congress - the Protect America's Children from Toxic Pesticides Act - would ban certain products deemed dangerous, while closing regulatory loopholes.

While the future of the bill is uncertain, supporters say it also protects local governments and their ability to adopt their own pesticide rules. Some in Congress have been fighting a patchwork of regulations.




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