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EPA Launches Voluntary Rating Program to Reduce Pesticide Drift

The EPA has launched a voluntary drift reduction technology (DRT) program to encourage the use of safer pesticide spray products to reduce exposure and pesticide movement while saving farmers money in pesticide loss.

One to 10 percent of agricultural pesticide sprays drift or move from the intended target crop, the agency says. Every year about 70 million pounds of pesticides valued up to $640 million are lost to pesticide drift. And, state agencies use substantial resources each year investigating drift complaints. Farmers have long been concerned about reducing pesticide product loss during and after application to crops and minimizing drift to neighbors.

DRT is a voluntary program that encourages manufacturers to test their technologies (such as nozzles, spray shields and drift reduction chemicals) for drift reduction potential. The EPA encourages pesticide manufacturers to label their products for use with DRT technologies. The four DRT ratings represented by one, two, three or four stars are awarded for technologies that demonstrate at least 25 percent reduction in potential spray drift compared to the standard.

Spray technology manufacturers interested in participating in the EPA’s DRT program may now submit data verifying their technology reduces pesticide movement. The agency will evaluate each data submission and, if appropriate, assign a drift-reduction star rating to the product based on its ability to reduce spray drift. The EPA will post these ratings.

A pesticide manufacturer can choose to label a product for use with a DRT of a particular rating after receiving approval from the EPA.

Over time, the program will move the agricultural sector toward the widespread use of low-drift technologies. Drift-reduction ratings could appear on pesticide labels as early as fall 2015.

Earlier this month Whole Foods launched a rating system for fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers that assesses growing practices that impact human health and the environment including pesticide use.

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