Crop Protection: U.S. Food System Very Safe

Crop Protection Products are Highly Regulated

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

There’s no need to worry about crop protection products when you consume food, fruits and vegetables, and all the rest, as the materials are highly regulated.

“Chemicals are all around us. In fact, we are all made of chemicals, so the fear of chemicals is unnecessary. Chemicals can actually be very beneficial,” said Dr. Eliza Dunn, Medical Sciences and Outreach Lead for Bayer Crop Science. “Chemicals make antibiotics and vaccines, and all of that is really important because it’s in public health, and they also protect the food supply.”

And here’s a fact: Pesticides a more heavily regulated that antibiotics that we take and those antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals are highly regulated.

“You have to do lots of testing to get your pharmaceutical in the market. Testing and monitoring pesticides are the same way. Pesticides come up for reevaluation every 15 years, and they look at all of the data that’s involved in that 15 years to make sure there’s nothing new that can be concerning for human health,” Dunn explained.

“These agencies have the best interests of people at heart. I wouldn’t feed my kids something that I thought was worrisome. And I feed my kids fruits, vegetables, and other foods, and I don’t worry about the residues because it’s not going to cause harm,” she said.

Dunn also commented on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List that they release each summer.

“It’s very unfortunate because it winds up causing people to get very worried about their food supply, and you can be absolutely reassured that the food supply in this country is safe and healthy and nutritious,” said Dunn. “We are so lucky to have access to such a fabulous food supply because there are other places in the world that don’t have access to that, and it’s because we have things like crop protection products that make sure that we have an access to that kind of food supply.”

As for the EWG’s statements that certain fruits have higher residues?

“That’s misinformation, unfortunately. They’re not toxic. We know that fruits and vegetables are healthy. If you are worried about residues, you can wash them off. It’s really fear-mongering, and that is irresponsible,” Dunn said.

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STK REGEV ‘Hybrid’ Fungicide Named Finalist for Best New Crop Protection Product

TIMOREX GOLD Finalist for Best Marketing Campaign

News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh

STK bio-ag technologies, a global leader in the development and marketing of botanical based and hybrid solutions for food protection, was selected as a Finalist in two Agrow Award categories … REGEV ‘Hybrid’ Fungicide for Best New Crop Protection Product of the Year, and the TIMOREX GOLD Outreach for South American Growers as the Best Marketing Campaign of the Year.

Note that Regev is not registered in California while Timorex Gold is pending registration in California.

REGEV is the first product of its kind in the market. REGEV is a pre-mix hybrid solution that delivers effective and sustainable disease control in a very wide variety of high-value, row and even broad acre crops. This is a breakthrough formulation which creates a bridge to future biologics use, enabling growers in all sectors and geographies to reduce their ecological footprint and thrive economically to better meet the demand for sustainable food protection.

REGEV is a revolutionary and easy-to-use approach to sustainable crop protection. REGEV is a hybrid pre-mix, which is used in exactly the same way growers use their current chemical fungicides. No mixing. No Rotating.

REGEV enables growers who have never used any biological product to try a biologic, experience an effective new tool for combating resistance, increase crop yields, sharply reduce chemical residues and make crops more competitive with consumers and regulators globally,” said Arye Tenenbaum, CEO of STK bio-ag technologies.

The Agrow Awards were developed to recognize excellence in the crop protection and production industries. Entries are evaluated using a wide range of criteria by an independent judging panel consisting of a group of experts from around the world.

Winners of the 11th Annual Agrow Awards will be announced at the Awards Gala scheduled to take place on November 12th at 8 Northumberland in London.

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Caltec Ag Keeps the Industry Up to Date

Caltec Ag is Busy with Research to Help Farmers

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
Rudy Monnich

It’s no secret that technology is more advanced than it’s ever been, and the agriculture industry is no exception. Rudy Monnich, president of Caltec Ag, is helping to ensure that growers are provided with new and innovative technology to improve their crops.

Caltec Ag is a consulting and contract researching group based out of Modesto. They have been in business for about 64 years, and throughout their farming and research, they know firsthand that advanced technologies are key to progressive farming. Not only do they distribute products throughout the United States, but Monnich explained that this year, they are doing over 300 test blocks, mostly on crop protection materials that are all new and innovative.

Research between Caltec Ag and a company they work with led to the discovery of a new organic bacteria that Monnich described as “just phenomenal.”

He also highlighted the effectiveness and efficiency of drones that the company was able to observe in Japan. Not only was the drone able to spray specific locations of a field versus the entire thing, but it was more effective when it came to getting photographs and the data behind it.

“That’s what’s really important to the growers,” Monnich said.

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One Company, Big Mission – That’s Gowan

Keeping More Crop Protection Tools Available at Gowan

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
Cindy Smith with Gowan

With regulations on resistant management products getting increasingly strict, it is important that farmers keep all of their tools in their toolbox. That is where Gowan, a family-owned crop protection company, comes in. Cindy Smith, agricultural relations director, has a proven track record of dedication to the business.

“When you work for a small family-owned business like Gowan, you have the opportunity to do many things,” said Smith, who has been involved in various positions from regulatory to commercial. She is now focused on policy, and how it not only impacts growers but ultimately consumers.

Since its beginnings in Arizona and California, the company has grown internationally to form partnerships with Japanese companies. Despite their exponential growth, their services remain grounded.

“Our focus is niche fit, so it’s specialty crops and it’s niche fits in big agriculture,” Smith explained.

California agriculture is critical to their business, and the team is dedicated to upholding California’s status as an elite producer of agricultural goods—despite the threat of overregulation.

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Conventional or Organic Strawberries — All Safe to Eat

Strawberry Grower Says At PPB, Anything Can be Found

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

David Peck is a longtime strawberry grower in Santa Maria. He objects to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen list, which had strawberries at the top of their list.

David Peck, COO and Farmer of Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria

“If you take the data that the EWG is presenting, you can say, yeah, okay, that’s fair,” Peck said.

“Based on what they are presenting, they can find detectable amounts of whatever at however many parts per billion. I’ll buy that; but they’d have no perspective on the types of residues and what that means regarding human health, human safety, and human risk,” noted Peck, who grows both conventional and organic strawberries.

Peck said that even organic strawberries would have detectable amounts of residues.

“I tell people that I grow organic strawberries and that I do not put on the crop protection materials that the EWG is talking about,” he explained.

“At parts per billion (PPB), you can find dozens of carcinogens at minute levels. Where did they come from? Well, they are everywhere in such small quantities that no one should worry about it,” Peck said.

Peck said that the decision for consumers is not organic versus conventional, but to eat more strawberries and other fruits and vegetables.

“I say eating California produce in general is so much healthier than avoiding California fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said.

The Alliance for Food and Farming works hard to bring the truth to the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. They report that all produce is healthy to eat and that consumers need to eat more every day. More Information at www.safefruitsandveggies.com

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CropLife America Advocates For Crop Protection

#GiveACrop Campaign Helps Consumers Understand Importance of Crop Protection

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today recently spoke with Genevieve O’Sullivan, the Director of Communication and Marketing for CropLife America based in Washington, D.C. They’re advocates for crop protection companies.

“So every day, my job is to talk about why pesticides are necessary tools for farmers, and one of the ways we’ve done that is with a campaign called giveacrop.org, where we have 12 humorous videos on why farmers use pesticides. … Our most recent ones are focused specifically on the importance of pesticides as an important tool,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s all about The Talk—having a conversation about the importance of crop protection materials.”

“We help the average consumer understand the importance of crop protection tools,” she explained.

With the videos, CropLife America has chosen a of couple different occupations—like a chef, a hairdresser and carpenter—to feature.

“What we do is take away the main tool they need and then show how much harder it is to do your job or possibly [they’re] not even be able to do the job without the tools, and they are quite humorous,” O’Sullivan said.

“They feature our mascot, The Pest, and he is that guy that nobody can stand. But thank goodness farmers have pesticides to deal with the pests on their property,” she said.

The campaign also promotes #GiveACrop.

“It’s more than a hashtag. It’s the satisfying crunch of spreading the word about crop protection,” O’Sullivan explained. “Whether you’re a proud grower or a satisfied shopper, when you #GiveACrop, you’re saying that you’re not afraid to have the talk about the produce you love and the pests you don’t.”

“So go ahead, take a harvest selfie. Show us your bumper crop. And tag it like you mean it,” she said.

To see the videos, go to giveacrop.org, where you will also find facts versus myths.

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Cannabis Growers May Be Using Illegal Materials

Illegal Pest Control by Cannabis Growers

By Patrick Cavanaugh Farm News Director

Big problems are arising in the cannabis growing areas of California.

John Fournier runs Acadia Regulatory Consulting in New York State. He on an EPA list of registration consultants. And because his company is high on the alphabetical list, he gets calls from cannabis growers in California who are looking for help in dealing with pests and diseases on their crops. Because cannabis production is federally illegal and the registered crop protection material products fall under federal guidelines, there are essentially few materials that growers can use.

“The biggest pressures for cannabis growers are powdery mildew, fungus gnats, and mites. If a grower had a bad spider mite outbreak, they would want to protect a super valuable investment. The question is, what are they willing to do to protect that investment? And in a situation like that, maybe you’ll go buy a miticide off the shelf somewhere,” Fournier said.

“As long as it’s not restricted use, anyone can buy it and use it on your crop. In that situation, that’s going to be a product that’s not approved for cannabis use on the state approved lists, difficult to control legally. There are also fungus gnats, which are a problem with plants that are overwatered.”

A lot of growing happens underground, and growers will have a soil mixture that is overwatered, which is one of the most common problems in cannabis.

“When the soil is overwatered, algae will start growing in the soil, and fungus gnats will find the crop and start feeding on the algae,” Fournier explained. “And then they’ll start feeding on the fine root hairs of the crop itself so they can actually kill the crop, if the outbreak is bad enough. Fungus gnats can be controlled by either an insecticide to kill the gnats, or you can use a biocide to kill the algae. Again, the materials must be registered for cannabis.”

According to Les Wright, Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner, illegal cannabis farms have been raided and officials have found empty containers of rodenticides, nematicides, insecticides, and miticides, all illegal for use on cannabis. “We always find illegal crop protection materials and many of them had labels in Spanish, most likely from Mexican syndicates.

Again, there are no conventional materials registered.

Now here’s the part where it gets dangerous. According to Fournier, “In states where recreational cannabis has been legalized, I have spoken to people who have said they’ve discovered through some means or another … dangerous levels of pesticide residues on cannabis, where a grower had obviously used hundreds of times more than the labeled rate of an insecticide to save their crop, and obviously this could be dangerous to consumers.”

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Higher Caution Will Be Required when Spraying Near Schools

New Regs on Pesticide Spraying Near Schools Begin Jan. 1

By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor

Starting Jan. 1, new regulations will prohibit pesticide spraying near schools and licensed child day-care facilities within a quarter mile Monday through Friday between the hours of 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM.

In addition, most dust and powder pesticide applications, such as sulfur, will also be prohibited during this time.

California Ag Today spoke with Milton O’Haire, Ag Commissioner for Stanislaus County, about these new regulations.

“With these new regulations and even with our permit conditions, growers have been restricted as far as spraying around schools,” O’Haire said. “It’s making it harder for growers to actually practice agriculture because their windows for applying crop protection has shrunk even more.”

Milton O’Haire

“Previously, a grower could actually start spraying at 5:00 p.m. if school’s out already, or if the school was on a half-day, an operator could start spraying in the afternoon. These new regulation will prohibit that,” O’Haire said.

“The new regulations are slightly different than what we’ve had in place for a number of years. Since 2010, we’ve had permit conditions on all of our restricted materials permits, which are more acute or toxic materials where there was already a one-quarter mile restriction around schools. And during that time, we really haven’t had any violations or any incidents, so the growers have been following that very well,” O’Haire explained.

The new regulations target all crop protection materials, both restricted or not.

Growers will have to be more diligent about their pesticide applications and continue to monitor the spray operation to prevent drift.

“They have to be on top of the pests so they catch them very quickly, because if you have a pest infestation where before you might have been able to go out and start spraying the next day, you may not be able to do that,” O’Haire said.

“If you’re near a K-12 school, and it’s Monday for instance, now you’re going to have to wait for a window to open or come in at nighttime to actually spray,” he explained. “It is going to affect those growers that have crops near schools, and we have more than 200 growers that are going to be affected in our county.”

Previous drafts of these new regulations required parents to be notified anytime a grower would be spraying pesticides near K-12 schools or licensed daycare centers.

“There was a modification of that. What has changed in the draft regulations: now the grower must notify the school annually with a list of what would be applied during the year,” O’Haire said.

If a material is to be used that was not on the list, then the school must be notified 48 hours before application. The material must be added to the list at the school as well as notifying the Ag Commissioner.

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David Brassard on Understanding Hard Data In Crop Protection

Reliable Answers Needed In Benefit Assessments

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

David Brassard of Brassard Pesticide Regulatory Solutions has many years of experience working with the EPA. Based in Washington D.C., Brassard, along with his wife, Candy, now assist in getting new products registered for use with the EPA.

Brassard spoke with us about benefit assessment in regards to the EPA and pesticide regulation and how real data collection is a much stronger source of information.

“So there’s several ways of doing benefit assessment. For instance, back in the day, we used to have the National Agricultural Pesticide Impact Assessment Program (NAPIAP) getting farm advisers’ opinions and county extension agents’ opinions about what would happen if, say, we canceled chlorpyrifos,” Brassard said.

Brassard explained that when looking at benefit assessments alone, this testing could vary greatly from area to area. Compared to concrete data, benefit assessment can look unreliable in comparison.

“Frequently, you’d go to, say, Arizona. The guy from Arizona goes: ‘Oh, we get by without it just fine.’ Then right across the border in California, they’ll say ‘Oh, no. We can’t live without it. There’d be a 20% yield loss.’ There’s a lot of discrepancies in the kind of information that we would get,” Brassard said.

“When we actually dug into it, what we found was that if you actually relied on the hard data — the product performance data, the efficacy testing, what the yield difference is — you can get much more reliable answers,” he said.

These more reliable answers are important when producers are trying to maintain access to these products.

“There was a big movement in the ’90s, and I was at the forefront of it, of moving NAPIAP from the process of just asking expert opinions about what would happen to actually getting experts to pony up some data that would support their opinions,” he said.

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Measuring Crop Protection Material Tolerances

Biological Tolerances May Be Needed

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today recently spoke with Gabrielle Ludwig, Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs for the Almond Board of California, about the issue of crop protection in almonds. Almonds are the number one specialty crop export. Almonds also remain the number one nut in global production and are California’s number two agricultural crop.

Ludwig explained that pesticides are used and necessary in today’s almond production. Pesticide residue is a concern for not only domestic production, but also for international distribution. And with biological products such as friendly fungi and bacteria, the biological industry noted that they are safe and free of residue tolerance.

“I would say for this industry, there’s a couple of things going on in parallel, and they don’t have exactly the same problems. So one is you have the sector where it is still a chemical that you’re applying, but it may not have very much toxicity or the residues are, for whatever reason, vanished,” Ludwig said.

“In the United States, we can get an exemption from a tolerance, where EPA has looked at and said there’s no health risk, and there’s no need to set a maximum residue limit. For those products then the question becomes: Do you have the same standards in other markets?” Ludwig asked.

“And again, one example is that the EU does have an exemption for tolerance process, but they don’t always have the same standards so EU is more likely to set a number than United States. And we have also seen examples where the United States is setting a number and the rest of the world says there’s no need to set a number because it’s a natural occurring compound.”

“So if you look at a pheromone, which falls into a natural occurring arena, there, you’re not even spraying the trees so it’s a totally different ball game,” Ludwig said.

“With biologicals, again, it’s a different ball game. You still need to have someone say, look at it, say it’s safe; because it’s going to be exempt from a tolerance.”

“But currently, there’s no testing for it,” Ludwig said. “With DNA technology, it probably wouldn’t be that hard to start testing for biological products’ lack of residue, especially ones that go on the produce that is eaten.”

“So again, what we’re saying here is, don’t rely on the fact you can’t be tested for it because we did that in the conventional pesticide arena and it’s caught up with us,” Ludwig said.

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