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Safety Ethics

As one of the companies receiving a pat on the back in your March editorial about corporate backing of science education, I am certain any of those companies identified, ICI, BP or Bayer could have told you that the IBT fraud story [Pesticide Safety Fraud, March] is old, old news.

I am sure you will find that the New Zealand authorities will verify that if any work which has been been commissioned to contract laboratories by ICI and is subsequently found to be wanting, ICI has ensured that an alternative set of valid data has been obtained. In all instances, any deficient data has been compensated by the generation of valid data which stands the scrutiny of the regulatory machine. To suggest otherwise is questioning the integrity of those Government staff involved in the examination of the data.

In one case we had with IBT data, we were requested to seek independent validation of the IBT data by the international authorities, but instead chose to complete a whole new set of toxicology data and live with the delay caused by that decision.

In short, we do not live with dubious or invalidated data, but do something positive to generate appropriate and acceptable data, the minimum to be expected of an ethical company.

Bruce Evans
ICI Registration and PCR Manager

Tim Frederikson replies: The Pesticides Board has access to the information already, yet it has not suspended, revoked or withheld full registration of any of the pesticides involved in the IBT/Craven cases.

There was a handful of manufacturers who reacted rapidly and deserve praise for the actions they took internally to minimise the impact of the discoveries, notably Ciba-Geigy, Chevron, Sumitomo and ICI. (The latter is known to be very safety conscious and no manufacturer should have felt that complicity in the testing scandals was implied.) Other companies relied on a federal amendment allowing them to market pesticides without full test data until such time as someone can prove conclusively that the material has harmed humans or the environment.

While the US and Canadian regulators intended to have the studies repeated, it never happened. Many responsible companies undertook limited testing in order to comply with local pressures; others continued to produce suspect pesticides for developing countries where little or no regulatory pressures existed. To the extent that we have accepted the USEPA data, New Zealand still has data which has not varied from the original material submitted under the questionable practices of the bad labs.

To scoff at "old news" is to imply that the occurrences at IBT have no further meaning today. This is both incorrect and dangerous.

(These comments have all been abridged.)