The U.S. Department of Agriculture began testing fruits and vegetables for pesticide residues in 1991 after the public became concerned about their potential risks to children. Remember Alar? In 1993, at the request of Congress, several top public health experts released a seminal report, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. Three years later, Congress responded by passing unanimously the federal Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), which required the Environmental Protection Agency to implement health-based standards for all pesticides used in food, with special safeguards for infants and babies.
This flurry of activity grew out of one overarching conclusion embraced by scientists, physicians, policy makers, parents and the public interest community: Pesticides used in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables can cause serious and lasting harm to young children.
That didn’t stop conventional agribusiness interests from trying hard to water down or remove provisions of the proposed law designed to protect infants and children. The industry argued that it would cut into their profits if they had to take children’s health into consideration.