Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

September 1970


Federal legislation relating to pesticide use in the United States dates back to 1910 with passage of the Federal Insecticide Act. This consumer protection from sub¬standard or fraudulent products was considered sufficient for the next 37 years.

In 1947, Congress passed the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The FIFRA superseded the earlier legislation and was designed as a regulatory measure. Under the Act any product considered an "economic poison" must be reg¬istered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture before it may be marketed in inter¬state commerce.

The FIFRA defines an economic poison as any substance or mixture of sub¬stances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, ro¬dents, nematodes, fungi, weeds, and other forms of plant or animal life or viruses, except viruses on or in living man or other animals, which the Secretary shall declare to be a pest, and any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant or desiccant.

The Act brought rodenticides and rodent repellents under Federal law for the first time. The shortcomings of the Act, as related to the definition of "rodent," were soon obvious but it was not until 1961 that vertebrate animals other than rodents were included.

Pesticides registrations are handled by the Pesticides Regulation Division of USDA's Agricultural Research Service. The manufacturer is required to furnish state¬ments of the composition of the product, the names of the crops on which it is to be used, the specific conditions under which it is to be applied as well as safety and effi¬cacy data. Application for registration of economic poison under the Act may be made by a manufacturer, seller, shipper, or distributor.

Coverage of the 1947 Act was extended by the Nematocide, Plant Regulator, Defoliant, and Dessicant Amendment in 1959. Since 1960 these materials have been covered by the Amendment and registration requirements have been applied.

On December 20, 1961, a "Notice of Proposal to Declare certain Forms of Plant and Animal Life and Viruses to be Pests" was published in the Federal Register. This proposal was in accordance with authority granted to the Secretary of Agricul¬ture under the basic law, wherein he is empowered to declare as pests forms of life not specifically named in the law.