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Improving food security is more than growing enough food for a growing world, it demands trust in the safety and quality of the food as well.
Raising the bar in transparency
Trust in our food system starts with understanding where our food comes from and how it is grown. Ultimately this means there must be transparency and accountability along the food journey. Our new standard is to not only give access to studies about our products, but also show how they are conducted.
By enabling access to study results in addition to background materials, we hope to foster an open, science-based dialogue on our products.
Protecting the Food Supply
Food safety and pesticides
Pesticide is a broad term used to describe insecticide, herbicide, and fungicide crop protection tools. Used by modern and organic farmers alike, they serve as an important tool for farmers to protect crops, reduce waste, and ultimately help ensure an adequate supply of food. This also means that pesticides are part of the food journey; thus, trace amounts of pesticides can sometimes be found on foods. However, the residual levels are incredibly small and are usually well below established safety standards.
When it comes to pesticide residues, regulatory authorities have strict rules. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set daily exposure limits at least 100 times below those shown to have no negative effect in safety studies. Regulatory authorities then monitor foods to ensure residue levels stay below the legal limits. For example, in September 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the results of its annual Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program and found that “generally levels of pesticide chemical residues measured by the FDA are below EPA’s tolerances, and therefore at levels that are not concerning for public health.”
In addition to the comprehensive assessments and strict oversight by regulatory authorities, Bayer does rigorous safety testing well before a product makes it to farmers’ fields. Even after a product is introduced to the market, we continue to test and reaffirm the safe use of a product.
Safety testing of crop protection products can be a long process. We do years of testing when developing a product and before it is submitted to regulatory authorities for evaluation and approval. On average, this process takes over a decade – ensuring all safety questions are addressed during this time. When companies conduct the studies for pesticide regulatory submissions, the studies are carried out according to internationally recognized quality standards called Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), which provide a framework for how laboratory studies are planned, performed, monitored, recorded, audited, and archived. GLP standards are considered among the highest standard of scientific testing in the world. These strict compliance guidelines ensure the quality and integrity of the data that are submitted for regulatory review. Among other things, the GLP program ensures studies submitted for review contain all the raw data—even if findings are unfavorable to a company’s interest, data may not be omitted.
Types of questions addressed during safety testing process:
1. Consider all possible scenarios for people coming into contact with a product
How could people come in contact with it? For example, we consider scenarios for people ingesting it, breathing it in, or spilling it on their skin.
How much? We consider whether someone would be exposed to a large dose or a small dose in different scenarios.
For how long? We look at the scenarios for a one-time accident as well as a lifetime of exposure.
2. Consider critical aspects to human health
Are there specific effects on different organs? We look at specific potential effects on all organ systems, such as the body’s reproductive organs, gastrointestinal and nervous systems resulting from periodic exposure, as well as any long-term risks such as cancer.
Would any effects be passed down? We examine potential effects on pregnancy and development over multiple generations.
3. Laboratory testing and simulation testing
What do simulations tell us? We run selected chemicals through computer models (many designed for pharmaceuticals) to understand how the chemical will react in the body.
What does testing tell us? Finally, we complete more than 100 human and environmental safety tests required by law to register a chemical for use by farmers and consumers.
Holding Ourselves Accountable to Strict Standards
Protecting human health and the environment
As consumers ourselves, the safety of our products is paramount and something deeply engrained in our culture.
This commitment to safety extends beyond our crop protection products. We approach other products, like GMOs, with the same fervor. We strive to set internal standards that not only meet the requirements set by the regulating bodies around the globe but often exceed them. This includes safety regarding human health as well as the impact on the environment. Our long-term success as a company lies in providing farmers with the best tools and solutions so they can grow enough with less environmental impact.
We are also committed to working with growers and the food supply chain through our Food Chain Partnership program to ensure the proper use of pesticides to deliver safe, quality food to consumers.