WASHINGTON -- The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) hasrecommended an overhaul in the system for assessing the risksto children and infants from pesticides on fruits andvegetables.

The three relevant government agencies -- the FDA,Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department ofAgriculture -- have said they will coordinate their efforts to getthe job done.

All of this was good news for the agricultural biotechnologyindustry, which is developing biological pesticides and pest-resistant crops that can replace traditional organics, threeindustry leaders told BioWorld.

"I think this will help people realize when they look at (therecommendations) that biotechnology is the only answer toreally large-scale reductions in the pesticides out there," RogerSalquist, chairman and chief executive officer of Calgene Inc.(NASDAQ:CGNE), told BioWorld. "Our second product is going tobe a herbicide-tolerant cotton variety. It's going to displace 9-10 million pounds of total herbicide use in cotton."

This is good news for us," Bruce Fielding, chief financial officerof Biosys (NASDAQ:BIOS) told BioWorld. "We think this will helpcreate a market for our products a little sooner than we hadexpected.

"The fact that regulators are speeding up the process andhelping to make the public aware that products like ours existhelps," Fielding said. "But we think the grower, the rancher andthe farmer are ready for these products, and safety is an addedfeature to be able to sell these days." He then alluded to a newbiological flea killer his company is marketing (see BioWorld,June 25), which he said is not dangerous to children or pets.

In a joint press release issued last Friday, the three federalagencies stated, "We will intensify our effort to reduce the useof higher-risk pesticides and to promote integrated pestmanagement."

Although the press release did not specifically namebiotechnology, Jerry Caulder, chairman, president and chiefexecutive officer of Mycogen Corp. (NASDAQ:MYCO), said thatsupportive statements have come out of each of the threeagencies "for 10 years, and now the report has put hard data towhy we ought to be moving in that direction."

The rationale behind the recommendation is simple. "Thegovernment's current regulatory program takes a 'one size fitsall' approach even though children differ greatly from adultsnot only in size, but also in metabolism and in what they eat,"said Philip Landrigan, professor of community medicine andpediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and chairman ofthe Committee on Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Childrenof the National Research Council of NAS, at a press conferenceon Monday.

Furthermore, "children ... consume more of certain foods perunit of body weight. ... But the current regulatory system doesnot consider these differences between children and adults."

For example, "infants under a year of age eat 12 times as manypears as the average person," Ken Cook, president of theEnvironmental Working Group in Washington, D.C., toldBioWorld. The group had released its own report last Friday.

The three agencies and the authors of the report emphasizedthat they were not trying to create alarm over pesticides onfruits and vegetables. Responding to a reporter's question,Landrigan refused to advise parents to switch to organic fruitsand vegetables.

"We want the food supply to be safer," he said. "We think thereis room for that. But we feel that the risk for children of noteating fruits and vegetables (with current levels of pesticideresidues) is probably greater than the risk of the pesticides inthem."

-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.

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