Multi-lingual labels for RUPs may be on the horizon


October 5, 2022

Greg Baumann

Greg Baumann

A movement is underway to require multi-language product labels for restricted-use pesticides (RUPs) in the United States.

Worker protection in the agriculture industry has been a political issue in the past. The promoters of multi-lingual labels are concerned field workers might not understand the pesticide labels. Most likely, there will be a push to get at least Spanish-language labels required as the reauthorization of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act moves through Congress in the coming months.


Thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) requirements, which are generally fair and contribute to the proper use of pesticides, most labels are already too long. It is a misconception that the longer the label, the more people will read and understand. Factor in multi-language portions, and the label will no longer be a page or a booklet, but rather a book, a la fumigation labeling books. Regardless, there is traction for multi-lingual labels initially through a web link or QR code on the main label to transport the user to a Spanish label.

As with anything else, we will likely witness another example of the law of unintended consequences. While everyone wants to support the safety of all workers, including those who use another language, adding a second language is not as simple as it seems.

First, manufacturers, distributors, and, depending on how the final law is written, even pest management companies would have to incur the expense of dual labels. Online isn’t that difficult to be sure, but it is one more layer of “things which can go wrong.”

Second, acknowledging that applicators cannot speak English, we will still have English-only training materials. Training has long been the cornerstone of safety, both from worker safety and proper application points of view. Most states, which usually develop the training materials, are not funded to convert materials to a second language. Further, after training, many states require exams before a candidate can apply a pesticide. With exams only in English, this would create a further time and resource burden on states. Regulations would have to be translated to be fair, and that could require legislators to author bills in Spanish or other languages.

Finally, recordkeeping would have to be acceptable in Spanish. Then, each state would have to approve labels in other languages at a time where states already are suffering from a lack of resources.


Now please note that I raise these points not to take a position on the “English-only” question about life in our country. I am merely pointing out that when something sounds very easy to implement and that’s the end of it, usually that is not the case.

Aside for fumigators, our industry does not depend on RUPs for the bulk of our work. But there already is talk of expanding to other languages beyond the two major languages spoken in the United States, and for it to include general-use pesticides as well.

In accounts where there is a huge population where English is not the first language, most pest control companies and technicians respond by diligently working with customers in their preferred language. The potential mandate for other languages on a product label refuses to acknowledge that businesses are resourceful and address the needs of the customer and employees alike. To be sure, there might be some agricultural operations where a second language would be beneficial, but that training can easily come from good leadership in the field — and not requiring other languages on labels when there is no reasonable need in the structural pest control world.

Hopefully, our industry can show legislators that we already take education and onsite training seriously, and that is something that multi-lingual labels won’t necessarily enhance.

About the Author

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Greg Baumann is Vice President, Technical Services & Regulatory Affairs for Nisus Corp.

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