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Module 1: Label Basics

Table Of Contents



  1. Label Basics
  2. Parts of the Label
  3. Special Issues
  4. Applying the Principles of Pesticide Label Review
  5. Emerging Issues and Course Completion

Module 1

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Section 4: Why is labeling important?

The Importance of Enforcement

The label is the law. Imprecise language can make a label misleading and unenforceable. If a label is not enforceable, then users who misuse a product might not be prosecuted, and victims of a product's misuse might not be compensated, as illustrated in the following example.


A user sprays a field with the pesticide atrazine to kill weeds. The atrazine kills the weeds, but it also causes more than $10,000 in damages to an adjacent organic tomato field. The owner of the tomato field tries to seek compensation from the atrazine user. An investigator consults the atrazine label and finds the following language: “Care should be taken to avoid using atrazine adjacent to desirable plants.” This language is not enforceable, because it suggests that this instruction is advisory rather than mandatory. Advisory statements are intended to be informational, while mandatory statements are intended to be legally enforceable. (Advisory and mandatory statements will be discussed further in Section 7 of this module.)

Because the language is not enforceable, the tomato field owner may not be compensated for his loss. To be more enforceable, the language should read: “Do not use atrazine adjacent to desirable plants.” To be even more enforceable, “adjacent” and “desirable plants” should be replaced with more specific language.

If the label had used enforceable language, the tomato owner might have been compensated, or the atrazine user might have decided against using the atrazine altogether.

Label Reviewer's Role

Pesticide labeling is EPA's principal means of communicating to users and the public how to use pesticide products in a way that maximizes efficacy and minimizes risk to humans and the environment. The label reviewer is responsible for ensuring that EPA communicates clearly and accurately, and in a manner that is enforceable and consistent with EPA policy. The reviewer must also ensure that registrants comply with EPA's labeling regulations. For example, the reviewer must make sure that a label does not include false or misleading statements. By reviewing labels with these principles in mind, the label reviewer's actions positively affect state and federal resources, human and animal health, and the environment.

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