Pesticide Use on California Farms at Near-Record Levels
By Paul Feldman, fairwarning.org, 9 May 2018
Farmers in California, the nation’s top agricultural state, are applying near-record levels of pesticides despite the rising popularity of organic produce and concerns about the health of farmworkers and rural schoolchildren.
The latest figures, released in April by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and covering 2016, show that 209 million pounds of pesticide active ingredients were used in agriculture. That was down 1.4 percent from the year before, but still the third-highest yearly total since the state began reporting the numbers in 1991. The record high of 215 million pounds came in 1998.
Safety advocates say the new report paints a grim picture of continuing reliance on dangerous chemicals. Pesticides classified as human carcinogens or likely human carcinogens were applied to nearly 9.2 million acres statewide in 2016. That’s more acreage than the entire land area of each of nine states.
“Communities across the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Coast are regularly … exposed to hazardous pesticides including those linked to cancer, to reproductive and developmental harm,” said Paul Towers, organizing director for the Berkeley, California-based advocacy group Pesticide Action Network North America.
“Not only these dramatic and acute quantities that are sometimes cause for concern and send folks to the hospital. But these low-level exposures, particularly in rural agricultural and suburban communities near the agricultural edge, where people are breathing, drinking, eating small amounts of pesticides on a daily basis.”
Pesticide Action Network pointed out that two of the five mostly heavily used pesticides in 2016 were the DowDupont fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene (Telone) and glyphosate, used in Monsanto’s Roundup and other pesticides. Both are on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals requiring warnings about risks of cancer or reproductive harm.
DowDupont did not respond to a request for comment. Monsanto said, in a written statement, “Hundreds of scientific studies over 40 years – all conducted under international standards by a wide range of scientists and regulatory agencies – have consistently concluded that glyphosate is safe and not carcinogenic.”