IR-4 International Activities

Increased globalization has resulted in seemingly easier movement of agricultural products from one part of the world to another. However, the diversity in pesticide standards, especially with regard to internationally acceptable maximum residue levels (MRLs) of pesticides on trade commodities across the different nations has acted as a trade barrier. Several years ago, IR-4 realized it needed to support international harmonization of MRLs and began using its data not only for domestic registrations but also to support international harmonization of pesticide standards.
Today, IR-4 concentrates its global activities in four main areas identified at the 2007 Global Minor Use Summit (GMUS; see IR-4 newsletter 39-1.pdf). These areas include: 1) information dissemination and communication, 2) capacity building to harmonize existing and developing regulatory systems, 3) supporting a minor use working group within Codex to increase MRLs for specialty crops, and 4) continued support of international collaborations such as joint reviews and pilot projects to share data.
Information Dissemination, Communication and Capacity Building
Shortly after the GMUS, IR-4 created the Global Minor Use Information Portal ( This website provides a wealth of information, not only with regard to the summit and capacity building workshops, but also information about other minor use programs, regulatory agencies, and guidance information. This site is updated frequently as additional information becomes available.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continue to take leadership roles in providing training and support for developing countries seeking to build their own pesticide regulatory bodies. The USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) has provided many training workshops throughout Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. These workshops focus on the progress of Codex activities with regard to pesticide regulation and crop grouping, as well as identifying minor use priorities within each country. Other workshops have been held as “mini summits” to provide updates on the GMUS activities to international stakeholders and minor use interest groups. At a recent symposia held in April, prior to the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR) meeting (Xi’an China), IR-4 provided presentations that gave attendees an overview of the IR-4 program, noted the importance of the crop grouping scheme for solving minor use issues, and provided an update on the Global Residue Study.
Expanding and Harmonizing MRLs, Global Collaborations
IR-4 continues to expand participation in global organizations with respect to pesticide issues causing commodity trade barriers. In North America, IR-4’s strong partnership with the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s minor use program, the Pest Management Center (PMC), has been a model of what IR-4 hopes will develop with other countries. In 2010 (marking our 16th year of cooperation), 18 new cooperative projects, consisting of numerous field trials, were initiated between IR-4 and PMC. These trials will result in harmonized MRLs for new products, and new reduced risk tools for growers. IR-4 not only shares residue work but also efficacy and crop safety data with our Canadian partners for ornamental horticulture crops. Additionally, PMC personnel are active participants in IR-4 prioritization workshops, meetings with registrants, other meetings and vice versa. The minor use joint review process between EPA and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) continues to save federal resources by fostering each agency’s acceptance of the other’s residue data review. But more importantly, both agencies establish MRLs at the same level and at the same time, thus preventing trade irritants.
Increasing Codex Alimentarius MRLs for Minor Use
The Codex Alimentarius provides a global standard regarding pesticide MRLs that protects the health of consumers and ensures fair trade practices for commodities utilizing FAO and WHO Food technical review of data and risk assessment at their Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) and the CCPR meetings. In 2006, IR-4 provided data for six chemicals to support new Codex MRLs on cranberry. Since that time IR-4 has provided data or submitted reports directly to Codex to support MRLs for numerous products covering many specialty crops. In 2009, these submissions included buprofezin, indoxacarb, and methoxyfenozide and in 2010, IR-4 submitted data to Codex JMPR for etoxazole, fenpyroximate, and novaluron. Additionally other submissions of IR-4 data were made by cooperating registrants. IR-4 has also assisted with data for submissions to Japan and the EU when requested by various commodity groups.
Along with establishing Codex MRLs on pesticides, the Codex Classification of Foods and Animal Feeds is extremely important to many countries: as a classification mechanism, as a cross-reference on commodity terminology, and as a basis for crop group MRLs and extrapolations within commodities. The US (IR-4), along with the co-chair (The Netherlands), have been working to update the codex crop classification. This revision, once implemented, will be useful to help promote MRL harmonization and uniform nomenclature of commodities, and this tool will help to remove trade irritants.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
At the request of US EPA, IR-4 personnel have been part of the US delegation to both the CCPR and OECD Working Group on Pesticides (WGP). IR-4 plays a key role on the OECD Expert Group on Minor Uses (EGMU) which works to assist countries, registrants, and growers in solving their minor use problems (i.e. needs, gaps) through activities associated with baseline information, collaborative data generation, data sharing, and joint reviews. The group has published an OECD guidance document on Defining Minor Uses of pesticides ( There is ongoing work to develop guidance documents on “Regulatory Incentives for Minor Uses” and “How to Address and Solve Minor Use Issues” that should be published sometime in the future.
IR-4 continues to work with other specialty crop programs throughout the world to reduce the data development burden on individual countries. In addition to Canada, other countries have begun establishing minor use programs or are considering expanding existing programs. The knowledge and expertise of IR-4 has been solicited as these new programs evolve and develop; at the same time IR-4 expects this will open doors to US exports by encouraging these countries to develop a similar regulatory structure that recognizes US MRLs.
USDA-FAS Support for IR-4 International Activities
The USDA FAS was a major supporter of the two Global Minor Use Summits (GMUS) in 2007 and 2012, and now continues its support for many of the follow-up activities. IR-4 has received two grants from USDA FAS. The first grant was awarded to conduct a Global Residue Study examining the influence of geographic location on residues. This study should provide data that allows scientists to determine if the geographic zone truly affects the ultimate residue levels found in the test crop. Special care has been taken in this study to remove or control many of the other variables that may affect pesticide residues. For example, premeasured vials of test chemicals were applied with identical application equipment (purchased and delivered by IR-4 to each location) to tomatoes growing at 27 locations throughout the world.
IR-4 also created and produced a YouTube video that demonstrated how the field researchers should conduct the trials from start to finish. IR-4 research cooperators finished the field and laboratory research for this study in 2010. The data showed that geographic region does not play a major role in residue levels. This will allow for increased data sharing and global data sets can become a reality. Ultimately global residue programs will provide a more robust data set and global review, thereby providing growers with new technologies earlier with less impact on trade.
The USDA-FAS has also awarded grants to IR-4 to continue assisting US specialty crop growers by submitting existing IR-4 data, to foreign regulatory authorities to establish MRLs. In some cases, there is a need to generate additional residue data to meet requirements for additional test sites.
Continued Commitment
The increased sophistication and regulation of pesticides make it very apparent that the potential trade issues could be enormous when growers use products (new reduced risk) that are not recognized by other countries. As global markets for US produced specialty crops continues to grow, IR-4’s involvement with global harmonization of MRLs and other global pesticide registration issues will also continue to grow.