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MOLLY IVINS “Nothin” But Good Times Ahead” Autograph Party to launch the national tour for Molly’s second book. Ya’ll come meet our “Texas Treasure” Tuesday, September 14, 1993 5:30-8:00 pm Scholz Garten 1 .607 San Jacinto Hosted by The Texas Observer & Congress Avenue Booksellers Autographed copies available by mail Call or write: Congress Avenue Booksellers New Mexico, scanned some of the listings of samples in violation of FDA standards and rated them as “probably of not a great concern,” since most, though illegal, were only slightly above or several times above EPA tolerance levels. The toxicology professor explained that limits the federal agency sets for an individual pesticide residue on a crop in order to protect public health are based on animal studies that determine a threshold of damage or cancer risk to the test specimen. Human tolerances are then set at 10 times the animal threshold. “You’d have to eat an enormous amount of these chiles, probably more than humanly possible to anywhere near approximate the doses that were [fed] to animals,” said Corcoran. The greatest risks, he pointed out, are faced by those “who apply the pesticide and work directly with the pesticides, where a large overexposure to the pesticide is possible.” Jennifer Davis, a senior research assistant with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, offered a somewhat different view. She assessed EPA’s methods in setting tolerance levels “as minimum of what they should be doing,” but cautioned about the still-unknown effects of inerts \(many pesticide formulations have other chemicals beside the active ingredients and 51 are of multiple chemicals used on chile and other foods. Some of the FDA Mexican chile samples had a half-dozen or more pesticides. Davis recommended washing all produce, buying in season, and encouraging farmers to use organic methods. However, she stopped short of calling on chile lovers to quit eating the Mexican-grown product. “You can’t say to someone ‘don’t eat a food’, because they can turn to another food that has higher pesticides,” Davis said. Another area of food-safety controversy is children’s possible disproportionate vulnerability to pesticides. Children are “consuming more and basically exposed to more pesticides on a bodyweight basis,” Davis said. Pesticide risk to children was the subject of Congressional hearings held in Washington, D.C., in 1990. Consumer advocates, environmentalists and farmworkers testified in favor of stricter standards for children’s exposure to pesticides. Some researchers and scientists disagreed, contending that pesticide use actually reduces food consumption dangers caused by bacterial contamination. The question is generating renewed debate, following the release of reports by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council. And recently stepping into the ring, the Clinton Administration in June announced a shift in national policy toward pesticide reduction. But the Democratic administration’s new pesticide position might very well contradict its proNAFTA stance, subsuming environmentalhealth concerns to economic ones. Unless Washington and Mexico City can reach agree ments on bringing Mexican pesticide-use practices into line with U.S. residue standards, the White House’s new position might be no more than a passing news story for domes tic consumption only, because so much of the winter vegetables and fruits sold in the United States are from south of the Rio Bravo. Meanwhile, chiles and other produce continue to move through the Bridge of the Americas inspection station and through other ports of entry. After countless shipments, Vicente Muiloz is familiar with the inspecting, testing, duty-paying and clearing routine at the terminal. Usually, there is no problem. “The Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, those from customs, inspect us,” he said, “we pay and we’re done.” Recently, the governments of Mexico and the United States have been meeting to harmonize the use of pesticides in the two nations. At an August 4 meeting in Dallas, attended by the EPA and FDA, representatives of several Mexican agencies responsible for health, agriculture, commerce, and the environment, informed their U.S. counterparts of plans to reduce the illegal chemical problem. According to a spokesman for the Mexican embassy in Washington, D.C., his government will now require exporters to hire an agronomist for pesticide consultation and crop advisement. Melissa Pullano, a special assistant for international regulatory issues at the FDA, added that the Mexicans are also constructing laboratories that will be approved by the FDA for pesticide analysis. Pullano added that two labs are reportedly on line and 11 others are being set up. She couldn’t confirm opening dates. How small Mexican farmers will pay for the agronomist and lab work is not known, either. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13