The English Patients Eat Pesticide

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For decades, U.S. and foreign pesticide manufacturers have been feeding their products to rats, rabbits, mice, and guinea pigs in thousands of controlled laboratory studies, all designed to satisfy government regulatory requirements for chemicals that kill weeds, insects, rodents, and other pests.

Studies on lab animals are still routinely conducted for pesticides today. But in recent years, in a growing number of experiments that are raising ethical and scientific questions inside and outside government, the test animals are people.

And for reasons neither U.S. nor British environmental officials can explain, most of the recent human pesticide experiments are being performed in England and Scotland.

Just last year, Amvac Chemical Company, a California pesticide company, hired a lab in England to conduct feeding trials using people to test the toxicity of a bug killer–dichlorvos. Researchers at the Medeval Laboratories in Manchester, England dissolved the insecticide in corn oil and paid a small number of adult men to eat it in a test of the chemical s acute effects. Dichlorvos is used to kill flies, caterpillars, and other bugs on fruit and vegetable crops, and has long been used in pet collars and pest strips (under such trade names as Fly-Die and No-Pest.) The volunteers in the experiment consumed an insecticide that, outside the United States, has been marketed as: Doom.

Also, paid volunteer subjects drank doses of the extremely toxic insecticide aldicarb in a 1992 study in Scotland commissioned by Rhone-Poulenc, the French chemical giant.

Neither EPA nor UK pesticide guidelines require human studies. EPA officials informally discourage such studies on ethical and scientific grounds. But the agency is nonetheless accepting human experimental studies submitted by pesticide companies, several of which have been used in at least two recent cases to soften EPA regulatory decisions.

The growing use of human testing to solve U.S. regulatory problems was revealed in a new report released by the Environmental Working Group, called–“The English Patients: Human Experiments and Pesticide Policy.”


Melissa Haynes, analyst for public affairs for the Environmental Working Group. Call: (202)667-6982.

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Chris Close, spokesperson for the American Crop Protection Association based in Washington, D.C. Although they agreed to read their prepared statement, the ACPA refused to participate in the program on air; the California-based pesticide company, AMVAC, also was unable to come on the show.

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