Scientists with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) joined with the American Phytopathological Society (APS) and the Entomological Society of America (ESA) to recognize the 50-year anniversary of the national Land-Grant University Pesticide Safety Education Program. Although the program has evolved over the past 50 years, it remains the focal point for pesticide safety education throughout the United States.
The Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP) had its genesis in 1964 to enhance pesticide label compliance and to develop the first training manuals. In the early years, the program was under the direction of each Land-Grant University’s Cooperative Extension Program and was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 1970, USDA passed the safe-use education torch to the newly created U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which concentrated especially on safety issues on the farm and in other occupations.
In 1978, EPA classified the first 12 restricted-use pesticides (RUPs). Applicators were required to demonstrate competency to apply RUPs, and Pesticide Applicator Training (as PSEP was then called) served as the primary developer and deliverer to inform and educate on safe pesticide use.
The reach of the Pesticide Safety Education Program has expanded greatly over the years. There are many more RUPs, and many states now require whole categories of users to be certified, even if they do not apply RUPs. Examples include certification of hired applicators, public employees and those treating schools or aquatic environments. In fact, an estimated 40% of certified applicators in the U.S. today do not apply RUPs.