Toxics & Pesticides Enforcement Division
Pesticides: The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
The Federal government first regulated pesticides when Congress passed the Insecticide Act of 1910. This law was intended to protect farmers from adulterated or misbranded products. Congress broadened the federal government\'s control of pesticides by passing the original Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) of 1947. FIFRA required the Department of Agriculture to register all pesticides prior to their introduction in interstate commerce. A 1964 amendment authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to refuse registration to pesticides that were unsafe or ineffective and to remove them from the market. In 1970, Congress transferred the administration of FIFRA to the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This was the initiation of a shift in the focus of federal policy from the control of pesticides for reasonably safe use in agricultural production to control of pesticides for reduction of unreasonable risks to man and the environment. This new policy focus was expanded by the passage of the Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act of 1972 (FEPCA) which amended FIFRA by specifying methods and standards of control in greater detail. Subsequent amendments have clarified the duties and responsibilities of the EPA. In general, there has been a shift toward greater emphasis on minimizing risks associated with toxicity and environmental degradation, and away from pesticide efficacy issues.
Under FIFRA, no one may sell, distribute, or use a pesticide unless it is registered by the EPA. Registration includes approval by the EPA of the pesticide\'s label, which must give detailed instructions for its safe use. The EPA must classify each pesticide as either "general use," "restricted use," or both. "General use" pesticides may be applied by anyone, but "restricted use" pesticides may only be applied by certified applicators or persons working under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. Because there are only limited data for new chemicals, most pesticides are initially classified as restricted use. Applicators are certified by a state if the state operates a certification program approved by the EPA.