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From December 4, 2006                                                                                                        

California Pesticide Report Shows Less-Toxic Pesticide Use
(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2006)
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released its report on 2005 pesticide usage last month, announcing a decrease in some highly toxic chemicals but an overall rise in pesticide volume.

2005 saw 194 million pounds of total pesticides applied for all commercial uses, while 180 million pounds were used in 2004. The increase in usage was largely attributed to a wet spring in 2005; half of the increase was due to sulfur, which is used by both organic and conventional growers to fight mold and mildew. Other reduced-risk compounds increased in both volume and acreage, while more toxic chemicals declined. In spite of the weather’s boost to crop diseases, the greater proportion of less-toxic products used points to more thorough Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plans across the state.

“DPR continues to put strong emphasis on reducing pesticide risks and use whenever possible,” said DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam in a press release. “While last year’s weather presented challenging conditions for growers, we see a growing reliance on sustainable pest management . . . Increased use of less toxic materials shows we are moving in the right direction.”

California has compiled a top 100 list of pesticides used in 2005 as part of the state’s analysis . Particularly notable, due to the recent meeting of the Montreal Protocol’s signatories, methyl bromide was sixth on the list in spite of a global ban in industrialized countries (see Daily News). Other details from the report include:

• As measured in pounds, the most used pesticides were sulfur, petroleum oils, metam-sodium, 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), and mineral oil. Sulfur use increased by 7.3 million pounds (13 percent) and was the most highly used pesticide in 2005, both in pounds applied and acres treated. By pounds, sulfur accounted for 32 percent of all reported pesticide use.

• Fumigant chemicals decreased in pounds applied from 2004 to 2005 by 1 million pounds (2.5 percent) and decreased in cumulative acres treated by 54,000 acres (14 percent). Approximately half of the major fumigants decreased in pounds used but nearly all major fumigants decreased in acres treated.

• The application of reduced-risk pesticides increased by 630,000 pounds (60 percent) and by 2.4 million acres (39 percent).

• Crops that showed an overall increase in pesticide pounds applied from 2004 to 2005 included wine grapes (6 million pounds), oranges (2.7 million pounds), raisin and table grapes (1.8 million pounds), walnuts (1.2 million pounds), and almonds (1 million pounds). Major crops or sites with decreased pounds applied included rice (1.5 million pounds), fresh tomatoes (700,000 pounds), strawberries (420,000 pounds), and lemons (370,000 pounds).

Some changes from 2004 to 2005 include:

• Total pounds of all higher risk pesticide categories, except for toxic air contaminants, decreased and use of all the lower risk pesticides increased.

• Acres treated with carcinogens and organophosphates increased, mostly because of increased use of the fungicides mancozeb and maneb, and the insecticide chlorpyrifos.

• Chemicals classified as reproductive toxins decreased in pounds applied from 2004 to 2005 by 2.1 million pounds (8.8 percent) and decreased in cumulative acres treated by 88,000 acres (4.1 percent).

• Pounds of organophosphate and carbamate insecticides, which include compounds of high regulatory concern, continued to decline as they have for nearly every year since 1995.

• Chemicals categorized as toxic air contaminants, another group of pesticides of regulatory concern, remained nearly the same as in 2005 while cumulative acres treated increased by 220,000 (6.1 percent).

To see the 2005 County Statistics and Rankings, click here. Media contact: Glenn Brank, (916) 445-3974 or gbrank@cdpr.ca.gov.

For past Beyond Pesticides news on California DPR’s annual reports, click here and here.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your state pesticide pesticide-regulatory agency and ask them to produce a report like California’s for your state. To identify your state’s lead agency, go here and click on your state. Contact the elected officials of your state and ask that this information be collected and readily available to the public.