Pesticide Availability for US Food Crops: Understanding Market and Safety Forces in Product Entry, Maintenance, and Withdrawal Decisions

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Title: Pesticide Availability for US Food Crops: Understanding Market and Safety Forces in Product Entry, Maintenance, and Withdrawal Decisions
Author: Courbois, Claude-Bertrand
Advisors: Dr. Gerald Carlson, Chair
Dr. Jacqueline Hughes-Oliver, Member
Dr. Charles Knoeber, Member
Dr. Michele Marra, Member
Dr. Walter Thurman, Member
Abstract: Pesticide firms in the United States must undertake costly, crop-specific Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety tests to register their pesticides for sale to farmers of commercial crops. Firms also must pay annual registration fees and periodically undertake additional safety tests on each pesticide's crop-specific registrations. These requirements create a market unlike others because firms may not freely enter or remain in a crop's pesticide market. The EPA can raise and lower registration requirements to discourage or encourage registration of pesticides with certain safety characteristics on crops with particular production or consumption patterns. Used effectively, these powers can enable the EPA to promote safety by encouraging registration of the safest pesticides in the widest number of markets, while limiting availability of unsafe pesticides. Used poorly, these powers can restrict even safe pesticides from reaching markets, especially minor ones. This dissertation evaluates the success of the pesticide regulatory system. A model that includes the EPA's standard-setting process and a representative pesticide firm's registration decision-making is used to demonstrate how registrations come about. The model shows how EPA and firm behavior cause registrations to depend on the characteristics of pesticides and crops. The study required compilation of an extensive dataset of crop and pesticide characteristics and registration data through the 1990s. The data are used in logit analysis to evaluate the relative importance of crop and chemical characteristics in determining registrations. The results show some evidence that the system successfully encourages registration of safer pesticides. Pesticides that are less likely to cause chronic health damage are more likely to be registered. Pesticides that are safer for the eyes of farm workers are more likely to be registered. The results also show undesirable relationships. Crops with lower national value are less likely to have registrations. After controlling for crop value, herbicides are less likely to be registered for fruits and vegetables and for crops with high per-acre value. Pesticides that are more dangerous if eaten are more likely to gain registrations. There is only limited evidence that EPA initiatives have caused safety to become a more important determinant of pesticide registrations during the 1990s.
Date: 2000-03-27
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Economics

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