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Monty Eberhart: A Diplomat for Human Safety

The safe use of crop protection products is a passion for Monty Eberhart. This Vice President for Human Safety North America at Crop Science, a Bayer division, has convinced competing companies to work together to meet a common need. His motto: “Safety is no accident.”

My dream growing up was to be a military pilot. But I flunked my physical because I’m color blind. As it turns out, I still spend a lot of time on airplanes – as a passenger. I travel nationally and internationally to help develop scientifically robust exposure databases for the safe handling of agricultural products. At the moment, I’m working with Brazilian industry representatives to build a task force for human safety similar to ones we already have in the US and Europe. The goal is to support the establishment of risk-based safety regulations for pesticides in collaboration with Brazilian regulatory authorities.

It goes without saying, but human safety is of paramount importance for the success of our products.

To assess the safety of a chemical, you look at two things: its toxicology and the degree to which people are exposed to it. When I started in agriculture, the emphasis was on toxicology. Exposure assessment was pretty much guesswork. I was trained as an industrial hygienist, which is the science of human exposure assessment. When I had the opportunity to introduce industrial hygiene concepts into product safety efforts at Bayer, my expertise was recognized and was given the chance to lead industry efforts early in my career.

Safety First

I’m especially proud that I encouraged collaboration in the field of human exposure assessment and its application to product safety in agriculture. When I started with Bayer in 1980, every company did its own studies and kept the results secret. I argued from the beginning that we shouldn’t compete about safety. For our kind of research, you need enormous amounts of data, so we all benefit if we work together. Moreover, we can do much more with less money.

Agricultural technology has great benefits for society. I want to make sure that safety issues don’t limit use of the products. We are a global company and very much leaders in putting safety front and center. I don’t want anyone – whether they are working on a large scale farm in North America or farming two acres in Indonesia – to use a product incorrectly and get sick. But it’s not a simple task. It takes a lot of research, planning and education. Safety is no accident. That’s my motto.

Enjoying Christmas Trees & a Good Drink

Keeping people safe takes many talents and different types of experts. I like the diversity of research in my field. In my team, I work with experts in toxicology, dietary exposure, worker exposure and computer modelling, and that’s only a few. They do the hands-on research now, and I supervise the work. It’s important that we as a team stay in touch with our ultimate client, the growers. So once a year I take my team out on an agricultural trip. Last year we went to a Christmas tree farm. This year we’ll visit the Biltmore Castle in Ashville, North Carolina to view their program on sustainable agriculture. They have a big agricultural operation there. They grow their own grapes and produce their own wines.

I don’t have much free time for my hobbies these days. At the moment, work and other commitments win out. I played in a golf tournament last week and did pretty well. But my Harley is more often in the garage than on the road. For relaxation when I travel, there’s always a good whiskey at the hotel bar. Next week I’ll be in Dublin. It’ll be a Jameson.

CV: Monty Eberhart:

1955 Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, USA

1980 Master of Science, Industrial Hygiene, Central Missouri State University

1991 PhD, Toxicology and Pharmacology, University of Kansas Medical School

1987-1991 Recipient of a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Fellowship

1992-current Development of risk-based worker safety assessments at Bayer Crop Science

2002-2011 Director, Product Safety Management, Bayer Crop Science

2011- current Vice President, Human Safety North America, Bayer Crop Science

Current Memberships American Academy of Industrial Hygiene, International Society of Exposure Science, International Society of Toxicology.

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