Question: How does your job support modern agriculture in America?
The heart and soul of modern agriculture is the American Farmer, who relies on chemicals to effectively control insects, nematodes, weeds, fungus and other pests that reduce yields or can completely destroy his crops. The chemicals that farmers use must be available in a form that fits into their farming practices, highly effective and affordable – failure of any one of the products they use can mean crop failure and a devastating financial loss. The people I work with take this responsibility very seriously, as we work to invent chemicals and test their suitability for the intended purposes and to verify they are safe for the environment and for people to use.
I am a toxicologist, involved in performing studies that are designed to identify potential human health effects and assessing whether there are adequate margins of safety to support registrations for commercial applications. I use my knowledge to determine whether findings from laboratory studies at very high levels of exposure are relevant to human health and whether we have established safe levels of exposure, to ensure human safety when used in accordance with the label. Toxicologists must be prepared to defend decisions to proceed with registrations and address associated questions, including why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would grant registrations for pesticides shown to cause tumors in such studies (risk of causing cancer in humans?) or that affect reproduction or development at high levels of exposure (safe for our mothers and children?). I am very proud to work in the agricultural-chemical industry and have confidence that the pesticides we are inventing and producing help farmers provide a safe and plentiful food supply.