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Since the 1940s, the responsibility for managing California farmers' use of agricultural pesticides, and the substantial health risks they pose, has been shared by state and county regulators. The state's Department of Pesticide Regulation registers pesticide products; county-level agricultural commissioners issue permits for the use of "restricted" pesticides—those that present significant human health or environmental concerns.
State law requires that when farmers apply for pesticide use permits, county agricultural commissioners must deny the use of a restricted pesticide when feasible safer alternative pesticides—as well as measures like using tarps or creating pesticide "buffer zones" that could mitigate the chemicals' impact—are available.
Study - UCLA - University - Southern - California
But a new study by UCLA and University of Southern California researchers concludes that commissioners are issuing permits for pesticide use without considering safer alternatives, and without evaluating the health implications of "cumulative exposure," which occurs when growers apply two or more pesticides to the same or adjacent fields.
The report is the third in a series that reviews California pesticide regulation; the studies are conducted by researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA School of Law, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and USC's Keck School of Medicine. The prior reports documented similar flaws in how the Department of Pesticide Regulation registers pesticides for use on California farms.
Law - Timothy - Malloy - Report - Author
"The law here is very clear," said Timothy Malloy, the report's lead author and a UCLA professor of law and of environmental health sciences. "Before issuing these permits, the county agricultural commissioners must evaluate potential cumulative exposures and must consider safer alternatives to the proposed pesticide use. That isn't happening."
Toxic pesticides are widely used in California agriculture to control soil pests for strawberry, almond, citrus and other high-value crops. The chemicals sterilize the soil and permit the same crop to be planted year after year. But their use has also...
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