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California Announces Cuts in Pesticide Regulation
(Beyond Pesticides, August 4, 2004)
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) publicized plans last week to reduce state restrictions on the registration of new pesticides and rely more heavily on federal regulations in order to save money and accelerate the approval of new pesticides. The plans were published in the California Performance Review, a 2,500-page report on proposed state government reorganization that was made available to the public and sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on August 3, according to the San Jose Mercury.

California is known for having state pesticide safety restrictions that are stricter than federal regulations. However, the report claims that California’s state regulations often only duplicate federal regulations and slow the registration of new pesticides. It recommends doing away with many of California's procedures to measure the safety and efficacy of pesticides, instead relying primarily on federal testing. According to Paul Gosselin, acting director of the DPR, the changes would not compromise "the toughest pesticide health and safety standards in the nation." Yet the proposal implies widespread reductions in several of California's important regulatory measures. The plan would eliminate a mandatory requirement for manufacturers to prove the effectiveness of new pesticides; instead efficacy would be reviewed at the discretion of the DPR and products could be registered while efficacy data is still pending. Manufacturers would also no longer have to submit data on the amount of pesticide residues left on food, as federal safety standards would be used instead. These measures are intended to reduce costs and speed up the process of pesticide registration for use in California.

The changes are particularly concerning in light of recent alterations to EPA procedure that have also quickened the process of pesticide registration (See Daily News 8/3/04). It would be risky for California to rely solely on federal regulations, which are often insufficient and inaccurate and allow the registration of chemicals that have not been fully studied or tested for efficacy.

Many have opposed the new changes, saying that California’s increased regulations are necessary to account for the state’s unique environment, climate, wildlife, and agriculture. Kathleen Thuner, San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner has said that many of the 250 fruits and vegetables grown in California are not grown in any other state, and the state has a wide range of different climate zones and soil types. The federal EPA often does not take California's unique qualities into account and these factors can affect the performance and environmental effects of pesticides, according to Thuner. She also said that, as a densely populated state, California has a greater potential for public interaction with pesticides than many other agricultural states, according to the North County Times.

Four groups in California are currently drawing attention to recent cases of pesticide drift from agricultural use. Californians for Pesticide Reform, Latino Issues Forum, Redefining Progress, and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation say the government needs to do more, not less to regulate pesticide use. "Pesticide drift accidents continue to poison entire communities and neighborhoods in agricultural areas of California. This is a growing problem as rural areas become suburban and urban, and fields are increasingly located next to residential areas and schools," stated Paola Ramos, of the Latino Issues Forum. With these issues continually arising in California, it is extremely important not to loosen restrictions and allow more chemicals to be used, which would only further poison communities and the environment.

You can view the California Performance Review report at the following site: http://report.cpr.ca.gov/

See the Department of Pesticide Regulation's press release here:
http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pressrls/040727.htm

TAKE ACTION: California state government is seeking public comments on the Performance Review. Let the state know that you disagree with reduced state regulation of pesticides. E-mail suggestions can be submitted on the Performance Review website. A panel will be holding hearings around the state as a forum for public comments, contact Pat Dando, vice mayor of San Jose, to attend a hearing or submit comments. E-mail: pat.dando@sanjoseca.gov Phone: 408-277-5251.