May 2018


3rd highest pesticide use ever recorded, according to Department of Pesticide Regulation's 2016 data 

Salinas City Elementary School Board passes resolution calling for pesticide safety

TC-CAPS rocks the crowd at annual pesticide conference

Farming Without Harm: Dr. Kanwarjit Boparai

2016 was 3rd highest ever recorded, DPR data show

Agricultural pesticide use in California remains at a near-record high, according to data quietly released in April by the state agency responsible for tracking pesticide use. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation's (DPR) latest numbers paint a grim picture of the state's continued reliance on vast quantities of agricultural pesticides - 209 million pounds in 2016. That's the third highest since reporting began in 1990. The greatest burden continues to be borne in the San Joaquin Valley, with half (106 million pounds) used in just five counties - Fresno, Kern, Tulare, San Joaquin and Madera.

"Given these bleak numbers, it is no surprise that DPR skipped their usual press announcement and quietly posted the data on their website without fanfare," said Angel Garcia, community organizer with the Tulare County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety.

Once again, among the top five most heavily used pesticides in 2016 were DowDuPont's hazardous, drift-prone fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene (Telone) and Monsanto's blockbuster herbicide glyphosate (Roundup), both carcinogens. Telone was found in the air at levels so hazardous it was banned outright in California in 1990. It was brought back in 1995 in a backroom deal between the manufacturer and DPR, the regulator, in which DowDuPont was allowed to create special rules for its reintroduction and was handed the authority to track its use. Last year, despite pressure to further restrict this widely used hazardous chemical, DPR actually increased allowed usage by 50%.

"We are saddened but not surprised that Telone use continues unabated in California, given DPR's unconscionable abdication of their regulatory authority to DowDuPont. There can be no clearer example of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse," said Sarah Aird, co-director of the statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform.

One encouraging piece of news was reduced usage of the brain-harming organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos, which dipped just under a million pounds for the first time. Last year, a proposed nationwide ban of chlorpyrifos was reversed at the last minute by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, leaving California to take action to protect workers and residents from a chemical known to cause irreversible brain damage, even in tiny amounts. The overall downward trend in usage, from as much as 3.4 million pounds per year, comes as DPR considers banning the pesticide in California.

The alarming numbers in the 2016 data have many worried about the continued risk to the health and potential of children living and attending schools near pesticide use in California's agricultural regions. A 2014 report by the California Department of Public Health (DPH) documented extensive use of hazardous pesticides within a quarter mile of public schools, with Latino children almost twice as likely as their white peers to attend one of the most impacted schools.

In response to that report's disturbing findings, DPR enacted a new rule earlier this year restricting the most drift-prone application methods within a quarter mile of schools and daycares from 6am to 6pm on weekdays. The regulation also requires growers to provide an annual list of the pesticides they intend to use within one quarter mile of schools to school and daycare administrators as well as to County Agricultural Commissioners, who are responsible for carrying out local pesticide enforcement under DPR oversight. Despite community calls for this information to be made public, DPR has refused to do so.

"It's very hard to understand why DPR would continue to place obstacles between the public and the information they need in order to protect themselves and their families," said Lupe Martinez, Assistant Director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment in Kern County. "The 2016 data is a stark reminder of the magnitude of the pesticide exposure risk faced wherever food is grown in California, and especially the risk for children who are the most vulnerable to their devastating health impacts."

Salinas Schools Pass Historic Resolution Supporting Pesticide Safety
Board unanimously supports buffer zones and safer alternatives

We're delighted to announce that Salinas City Elementary School District just became the third school district in the Monterey Bay area to adopt a strong new  resolution in support of commonsense protections for students from pesticide exposure at school. The decision of the governing board of trustees on April 9:
  • acknowledges the weight of scientific evidence of the negative impacts caused by pesticides on children's health, intelligence and behavior; 
  • expresses support for sustainable and environmentally sound agricultural practices, and for financial assistance for farmers to transition to such practices; and 
  • calls for expanded buffer zones and increased notification for schools.
A large contingent from our Monterey-area coalition Safe Ag Safe Schools was on hand at the board meeting to urge the trustees to support the strongly-worded resolution. But the board didn't need persuading, and halted public comment in order to pass the resolution unanimously.

Schools in agricultural regions, who see  firsthand the impacts of pesticides on children's health and potential, are increasingly adding their voices to the chorus demanding a better way to grow food in California.  On behalf of Salinas families, we thank the Salinas City Elementary School District Board of Trustees for their leadership on this issue.

Tulare County coalition brings their stories to Irvine pesticide conference
TC CAPS members give firsthand account of life as a farmworker 

Photo Credit: TC CAPS Facebook

Members of the Tulare County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety (TC CAPS) were a powerful presence at Beyond Pesticides' 36th National Pesticide Forum last month in Irvine, CA. The lunchtime chatter stilled to a hush broken only by the occasional clink of silverware, as the young TC CAPS members movingly told of their personal experiences working in the fields. You can watch the panel discussion here

TC CAPS member Raúl García closed with a moving appeal for collective responsibility on behalf of those most directly impacted by hazardous pesticides. "If you see someone that has a gun pointed at them, you call the proper authorities right? Well right now, we're in immediate danger. We've got these giant corporations that are essentially pointing the gun at us. And it looks like no one is calling the police."  

Fellow TC CAPS member Lety Lopez became emotional as she recalled her childhood spent working in the fields, acutely aware she was missing out on the hikes and beach vacations enjoyed by her high school classmates. "In my vision I wish kids didn't have to go through that any more," she said simply. "Someone has to work in the fields, but I hope they can do it in a safer way where they're not getting exposed."

Farming Without Harm: 
Kanwarjit Boparai
Growing olives without pesticides in the San Joaquin Valley

Photo credit: Joan Cusick

Kanwarjit Boparai teaches and practices veterinary medicine in Fresno, but in 2012 he added another role to his packed portfolio - organic farmer. On his parents' 2-acre ranch tract in Lemoore, he planted 168 olive trees "the old-fashioned way" - by hand. Just four years later his first harvest yielded 500 bottles of extra virgin olive oil, which he sells online

Photo credit: Joan Cusick

Although surrounded by conventional ag in the San Joaquin Valley, he is able to farm the land using sustainable practices and no pesticides, artificial fertilizer or other chemicals.

"Basically, these guys get water and soil," he said. "If I could eat olives off the tree - which you can't, but if I could - I'd have no qualms about grabbing one right now and eating it because I know there are no chemicals on there for me to worry about."

Photo credit: Joan Cusick

We're working with acclaimed photographer and journalist Joan Cusick to connect the issues we work on here at CPR with the people most impacted by them - those who live and work in California's farmworker communities. 

Her work may be viewed at and

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