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William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review




Overall, pesticide use is growing in developing countries. United States' pesticide use changed in content, but remains substantial in volume. Critics of pesticide policy, including many of the speakers at this symposium, are concerned that pesticide problems are worsening. Surprisingly, thirty years after the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act ("FIFRA") reforms and the victory over DDT, the critics are not yet prepared to declare victory. Even worse from the perspective of environmental pressure groups is the change in attitude toward DDT, a substance whose name invokes extraordinary invective, where the current picture is not quite what the advocacy groups predicted. The New York Times recently joined public health advocates in favoring the continued use of DDT to combat malaria in developing countries.' As a result, environmental pressure groups have been forced to retreat from their goal of a global ban on DDT.

Is command and control regulation of pesticides a success story? We contend that it is not. Instead we argue that the regulatory structure created by FIFRA is inferior to the outcomes obtainable under a market approach to pesticides. To make our argument, we first outline current pesticide use and reasons farmers continue to use them in Part I. We then describe the principles that inform a market approach to environmental problems in Part II, followed by a discussion on how decisions about pesticide use are made, something that the current regulatory structure largely ignores. Next, in Part III, we briefly outline four examples that illustrate the problems with centralized regulatory solutions and the superiority of decentralized approaches to environmental problems. We conclude in Part IV by offering some policy principles for pesticides.

The reader should note that this Article is not a comprehensive statement of the case against central planning in pesticides, something that space considerations prevent here and which we hope to provide in the future. Rather, because of the power of the pesticide "fables" that currently dominate the current debate," our goal is simply to suggest that there are alternatives to FIFRA and other one-size-fits-all rules, such as the ban on DDT production, that need to be considered.

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