Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act

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Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act


By: United States Congress

Date: June 25, 1947

Source: U.S. Code. "Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRU)." Title 7, Chapter 6, Subchapter II. June 25, 1947.

About the Author: The Congress of the United States was established by Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution of 1787. It is the legislative arm of the U.S. Federal Government.


Insecticides are used to control the destruction or infestation of crops by insects. While problematic insects can be dealt with in more environmentally friendly ways by the use of competing species or the presence of repellent plants, as two examples, the traditional approach still involves the application of chemical insecticides to agricultural fields.

Of the more than one million known insect species, approximately 10,000 are crop-eaters. Of these, some 700 cause significant losses of crops worldwide. Their control helps make more crops available to the developed and developing world.

This need spawned the use of chemicals that targeted insects. Since chemical insecticides are designed to kill living species, there is apt to be problems with their use, especially when the chemicals enter ground or surface waters. As well, the process of bioaccumulation (where one chemically laden species is a food source for another, and so on, causing the accumulation of the toxic compound in species higher up in the food chain) can result in the ingestion of considerable amounts of harmful chemicals by humans.

Humans may also be exposed to the residual application of insecticides, including other agents present in the insecticide mixture, via crop dusting, preparation of the insecticides, or accidents. Health problems can result.

Recognizing such dangers, the United States enacted pesticide control legislation as far back as 1910. Then, the intent was more to protect people from faulty products and misleading labeling. A more comprehensive safety-oriented legislation called the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) was passed in 1947.

With the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962, society became aware of the potential harm posed by agricultural control chemicals, in this case DDT. The legacy of DDT is an ever-present reminder of the dangers that can be posed to the ecosystem from the use of chemical control agents.

In part, this growing awareness prompted major amendments to FIFRA in 1972 and in 1996 mandated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the manufacture and sale of agents including insecticides and enforce compliance with agents that are banned from use. This includes inspecting facilities that use insecticides to ensure that the chemicals being used are approved for use and that the application of the insecticides is being done in accordance with the regulations.

Within the past few decades, the use of genetic controls for insects has become a reality. This will undoubtedly be reflected in the next (as yet unplanned) amendment of the insecticide use regulations.





Sec. 136. Definitions For purposes of this subchapter—

(a) Active ingredient

The term "active ingredient" means—

  1. in the case of a pesticide other than a plant regulator, defoliant, desiccant, or nitrogen stabilizer, an ingredient whichwill prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate any pest;
  2. in the case of a plant regulator, an ingredient which, through physiological action, will accelerate or retard the rate ofgrowth or rate of maturation or otherwise alter the behavior of ornamental or crop plants or the product thereof;
  3. in the case of a defoliant, an ingredient which will cause the leaves or foliage to drop from a plant;
  4. in the case of a desiccant, an ingredient which will artificially accelerate the drying of plant tissue; and
  5. in the case of a nitrogen stabilizer, an ingredient which will prevent or hinder the process of nitrification, denitrification, ammonia volatilization, or urease production through action affecting soil bacteria.

(b) Administrator

The term "Administrator" means the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

(c) Adulterated

The term "adulterated" applies to any pesticide if—

  1. its strength or purity falls below the professed standard of quality as expressed on its labeling under which it is sold;
  2. any substance has been substituted wholly or in part for the pesticide; or
  3. any valuable constituent of the pesticide has been wholly or in part abstracted.

(d) Animal

The term "animal" means all vertebrate and invertebrate species, including but not limited to man and other mammals, birds, fish, and shellfish.

(e) Certified applicator, etc.

  1. Certified applicator. The term "certified applicator" means any individual who is certified under section 136i of this title as authorized to use or supervise the use of any pesticide which is classified for restricted use. Any applicator who holds or applies registered pesticides, or uses dilutions of registered pesticides-consistent with subsection (ee) of this section, only to provide a service of controlling pests without delivering any unapplied pesticide to any person so served is not deemed to be a seller or distributor of pesticides under this subchapter.
  2. Private applicator. The term "private applicator" means a certified applicator who uses or supervises the use of any pesticide which is classified for restricted use for purposes of producing any agricultural commodity on property owned or rented by the applicator or the applicator's employer or (if applied without compensation other than trading of personal services between producers of agricultural commodities) on the property of another person.
  3. Commercial applicator. The term "commercial applicator" means an applicator (whether or not the applicator is a private applicator with respect to some uses) who uses or supervises the use of any pesticide which is classified for restricted use for any purpose or on any property other than as provided by paragraph (2).
  4. Under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. Unless otherwise prescribed by its labeling, a pesticide shall be considered to be applied under the direct supervision of a certified applicator if it is applied by a competent person acting under the instructions and control of a certified applicator who is available if and when needed, even though such certified applicator is not physically present at the time and place the pesticide is applied.

(f) Defoliant

The term "defoliant" means any substance of mixture of substances intended for causing the leaves or foliage to drop from a plant, with or without causing abscission.

(g) Desiccant

The term "desiccant" means any substance or mixture of substances intended for artificially accelerating the drying of plant tissue.

(h) Device

The term "device" means any instrument or contrivance (other than a firearm) which is intended for trapping, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest or any other form of plant or animal life (other than man and other than bacteria, virus, or other microorganism on or in living man or other living animals); but not including equipment used for the application of pesticides when sold separately therefrom.

(i) District court

The term "district court" means a United States district court, the District Court of Guam, the District Court of the Virgin Islands, and the highest court of American Samoa.

(j) Environment

The term "environment" includes water, air, land, and all plants and man and other animals living therein, and the interrelationships which exist among these.

(k) Fungus

The term "fungus" means any non-chlorophyll-bearing thallophyte (that is, any non-chlorophyll-bearing plant of a lower order than mosses and liverworts), as for example, rust, smut, mildew, mold, yeast, and bacteria, except those on or in living man or other animals and those on or in processed food, beverages, or pharmaceuticals.

(l) Imminent hazard

The term "imminent hazard" means a situation which exists when the continued use of a pesticide during the time required for cancellation proceeding would be likely to result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment or will involve unreasonable hazard to the survival of a species declared endangered or threatened by the Secretary pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 [16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.].

(m) Inert ingredient

The term "inert ingredient" means an ingredient which is not active.

(n) Ingredient statement

The term "ingredient statement" means a statement which contains—

  1. the name and percentage of each active ingredient, and thetotal percentage of all inert ingredients, in the pesticide; and
  2. if the pesticide contains arsenic in any form, a state-mentof the percentages of total and water soluble arsenic, calculated aselementary arsenic.

(o) Insect

The term "insect" means any of the numerous small invertebrate animals generally having the body more or less obviously segmented, for the most part belonging to the class insecta, comprising six-legged, usually winged forms, as for example, beetles, bugs, bees, flies, and to other allied classes of anthropods whose members are wingless and usually have more than six legs, as for example, spiders, mites, ticks, centipedes, and wood lice.


The potential environmental damage posed by insecticides, as well as the need for economic regulation of their sale, was recognized by the federal government in the first decade of the twentieth century with the passage of the Insecticide Act of 1910. The modern-day version of the act was passed in 1947.

The 1947 version of the insecticide act and subsequent amendments have helped curb the misuse and unauthorized use of insecticides. This has benefited both those who could be exposed to the chemicals and, more broadly, the environment.

An example of the strength of the act is the 1964 amendment, which allows unsafe or ineffective pesticides (and more specifically insecticides) to be denied the registration that is required for their sale and use.

Since 1970, the administration of the use of insecticides has been under the auspices of the Environ-mental Protection Agency. Now, insecticides are assessed more from an environmental viewpoint than an economic viewpoint.

Without the original Insecticide Act and the subsequent modification and revisions, environmental protection would not be as stringent as it is. Furthermore, the power of the act to regulate the introduction of insecticides helps ensure that harmful chemicals will either be banned from use or have qualifications attached to their use.



Ishaaya, Isaac. Biochemical Sites of Insecticide Action and Resistance. New York: Springer, 2001.

Pretty, Jules N. The Pesticide Detox: Towards a More Sustainable Agriculture. London: Earthscan Publications, 2005.

Stenersen, Jorgen. Chemical Pesticides: Mode of Action and Toxicology. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2004.

Web sites

"The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)." United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Enforcement, Compliance and Environmental Justice, Fall 2002. 〈http://www.epa.gov/region08/compliance/fifra.html〉 (accessed March 8, 2006).

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