Tests Show Low or No Pesticide Levels in Most Fruits and Vegetables in California
By Charlotte Fadipe, California DPR
Once again, tests showed that the vast majority of fresh produce collected by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) met national pesticide residue standards. During its 2017 survey, DPR found 96 percent of all samples had no detectable pesticide residues or were below levels allowed by the U.S. EPA.
The findings are included in DPR’s just released 2017 Pesticide Residues in Fresh Produce report.
“DPR carries out an extensive sampling of pesticides on fresh produce, and once again it shows that California consumers can be confident about eating fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Brian Leahy, Director of DPR. “California growers and farmers are adept at following our comprehensive rules to ensure produce is grown to the highest pesticide standards.”
The 2017 report is based on a year-round collection of 3,695 samples of produce from 28 different countries, including those labeled as “organic.” DPR scientists sampled produce from various grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food distribution centers, and other outlets throughout California. The produce is tested for more than 400 types of pesticides using state-of-the-art equipment operated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) sets levels for the maximum amounts of pesticide residue that can be present on fruits and vegetables, called a “tolerance.” It is a violation if any residue exceeds the tolerance for the specific fruit or vegetable, or if a pesticide is detected for which no tolerance has been established.
California Specific Results
More than a third of the country’s fruits and vegetables are grown in California, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). In 2017 DPR found:
-About 25 percent of all produce samples tested were labeled as Californian-grown,
-About 95 percent of these samples had no residues on them or were within the legal levels,
-About 5 percent of California samples had illegal residues, including kale and snow peas. These are pesticide residues in excess of the established tolerance or had illegal traces of pesticides that were not approved for that commodity. However, none of those residues were at a level that would pose a health risk to consumers.
Other highlights from the 2017 report include:
-41 percent of all produce samples had no detectable residues at all,
-55 percent had residues detected within the legal level.
-4 percent of all the samples had pesticide residues in excess of the established tolerance or had illegal traces of pesticides that were not approved for that commodity.
The Positives of Pest Management
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
There’s a case to be made for both organic and conventional farming, but make no mistake that they both have the same intention: safe food for human consumption. Few people know this better than Brian Leahy, chief of the Department of Pesticide Regulation in California, one of the 16 agencies under the umbrella of the California Environmental Protection Agency.
There are certain precautions that all farmers need to take to ensure our produce is of the highest quality, one of which is the use of pesticides. Leahy explained that yes, even organic growers require pesticides to protect their crop.
“When your food leaves the farm, it goes through a lot of pest management,” Leahy continued, “We’re doing it every day, so let’s acknowledge that it’s there.”
The fact is, everyone uses pesticides, whether it be in the grocery store or our very own homes, and if they are not properly managed it can lead to trouble.
“We’re all in this pest management together. Let’s start putting the resources into it so that we do it in a way we think we want,” Leahy concluded.
To find out how DPR regulates pesticide use, go here.
Keeping More Crop Protection Tools Available at Gowan
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
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.
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.”
“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.
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.