Making Comments with Data Carries Weight in Crop Protection

Make Comments When Needed

By Patrick Cavanaugh Farm News Director

Dave Brassard of Brassard Pesticide Regulatory Solutions, based in Washington D.C., regularly assists with getting new products registered with the EPA. California Ag Today spoke with him about making comments regarding the registration status of crop protection products.

“We’re pesticide consultants, and we basically assist registrants into getting everything registered, and getting through a lot of the data requirements, data waiver processes, that they need to go through,” he explained.

Brassard and his wife have a combined total of 73 years experience working in the EPA’s office of pesticide programs.

“The importance of data collection in pesticide regulatory reform, and the need for real data collection to be used in growers defense. Especially when growers reach out for support, the data is the most important, and the most reliable, form of evidence to present to the EPA,” he said.

“What typically happens is we will keep track and count the number of comments. But a lot of comments are very generic, and are not supported by data,” Brassard said

Simply having a large number of comments is not enough; it’s the quality content that really matters.

“So a lot of times it just becomes a little blurb that we had 10,000 comments from stakeholders worried about a concern, but what really, I think, makes a big difference, is if it’s somebody sends in data that can change EPA’s opinion on something,” Brassard explained.

“Let’s say that the EPA is going to regulate a chemical that is the only chemical to control, say, an obscure pest that we didn’t even consider in our original analysis. Somebody sends in that studies, and boy that stops the presses! It’s, ‘Let’s review this,’ ” Brassard said. “Does this change our opinion on anything? Can we make an exception for this particular use-pattern? Is there a different kind of risk-mitigation that we can impose?”

“Sending in real data are comments that make a real difference,” he said

 

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Cannabis Regulations Needed

Regulations Needed to Protect Consumers, Workers

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
Brian Leahy, Director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulations

With Cannabis being voted in to be legalized in California, regulations will need to be made to keep consumers and workers safe. California Ag Today met with Brian Leahy, Director of Pesticide Regulation out of Sacramento, about Cannabis.

“It is very complicated, but at the end of the day, our job is to help the growers create a crop that is safe for the consumer, safe for the environment and safe for the worker,” Leahy said. “This will all be done in conjunction with all of the other state departments that are working on this. It is the goal for the Cannabis growers to be just like any grower.”

Research is being done with the current Cannabis industry. New health protective guidelines are in the making. One major concern about the Cannabis industry is the amount of pesticide residue. This means that there worker safety issues along with human consumption issues. The industry is already taking steps to resolve this problem.

“The federal government does not recognize it; it’s not a crop. The producers have to remember it’s not a crop, so their laws even on worker safety, overtime, are not the same as agriculture,” Leahy said.

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Rossi Tackles MRL Harmonization

Lois Rossi Tackles MRL Harmonization

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Lois Rossi, who signed off on nearly all crop protection products at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for nearly 37 years, spoke to attendees at the recent Maximum Residue Levels (MRL) Harmonization Workshop in San Francisco. Rossi gave her thoughts on the need for MRL harmonization throughout the world.

Rossi was responsible not only for the registration of all conventional pesticides but also for the re-evaluation of approximately 400 active ingredients. Since 2004, she served on the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR) and was a member of the US delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Working Group on Pesticides and the Registration Steering group.

“There are process challenges from Korea, Taiwan, the EU, and Japan,” said Rossi, adding some are so difficult that not much can be done because of policy and regulation challenges. “Of course,” she explained, “I will suggest some harmonization opportunities, of which there are a plethora, and there is even a new one now with the Crop Group MRL. Just as you think you nailed that MRL calculator, somebody comes up with a different way,” she noted.

Rossi said at some point the industry needs to figure out how to tackle more of its impediments. “We have tackled some, but I don’t think everyone is there yet.” Rossi suggests information is probably the hardest hurdle to manage because there are so many foreign journals and varieties of global websites. “Like I said,” she explained, “the global MRL database has certainly been a lifesaver for many of us. But to keep up with regulations and procedures from countries to which our growers export commodities is somewhat of a full-time job for many, let alone those whose livelihoods depend on exports or who are dealing with MRLs.”

Determining and understanding different data requirements are also challenging. Rossi noted registrants struggle to determine not only how many field trials a particular country requires, but whether they can be conducted within or outside of the country. Some countries require six, some four. Some regulations vary if it’s a minor crop or a major crop. Rossi said keeping up with these requirements, updated testing methods, NGOs doing their own testing, as well as improved technologies that measure smaller amounts of residues is difficult. So, going to one place to figure it all out would be great.

“And then there is the wonderful world of Codex*, particularly with its capacity limitations. Rossi believes the Codex process has improved, but not its capacity. “That’s pretty much as old as Codex is,” she said.

“Some countries have default MRLs that differ, and some have private standards, which will take hold if the public loses confidence in the public standards and the national processes,” Rossi said. “So countries are establishing their own MRLs because of public pressure; consumers want safe food and they want their government to guarantee them safe food. If that confidence is lost, you will probably still have standards, but you will probably have less control because you are going to have private standards.”

*”The Codex Alimentarius or “Food Code” was established by FAO and the World Health Organization in 1963 to develop harmonized international food standards, which protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.”  Source: C O D E X  A L I M E N T A R I U S, http://www.codexalimentarius.org/)

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DPR Scientists Say Most Fresh California Produce Tested Has Little/No Detectable Pesticide Residues

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced that once again, the majority of produce it tested annually had little or no detectable pesticide residues and posed no health risk to the public. 95 percent of all California-grown produce, sampled by DPR in 2013, was in compliance with the allowable limits.

“This is a vivid example that California fresh produce is among the safest in the world, when it comes to pesticide exposure,” said DPR Director Brian R. Leahy. “DPR’s scientifically robust monitoring program is an indication that a strong pesticide regulatory program and dedicated growers can deliver produce that consumers can have confidence in.”

DPR tested 3,483 samples of different fruits and vegetables sold in farmers markets, wholesale and retail outlets, and distribution centers statewide. More than 155 different fruits and vegetables were sampled to reflect the dietary needs of California’s diverse population.

Of all 3,483 samples collected in 2013:

  • 43.53 percent of the samples had no pesticide residues detected.
  • 51.51 percent of the samples had residues that were within the legal tolerance levels.
  • 3.99 percent of the samples had illegal residues of pesticides not approved for use on the commodities tested.
  • 0.98 percent of the samples had illegal pesticide residues in excess of established tolerances. A produce item with an illegal residue level does not necessarily indicate a health hazard.

Each piece of fruit or vegetable may legally contain trace amounts of one or more pesticides. The amount and type of pesticide (known as a tolerance), is limited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. DPR’s Residue Monitoring Program staff carries out random inspections to verify that these limits are not exceeded.

The produce is tested in laboratories using state-of-the-art equipment operated by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). In 2013, these scientists frequently detected illegal pesticide residues on produce including:

  • Cactus Pads from Mexico,
  • Ginger from China,
  • Snow Peas from Guatemala and
  • Spinach from the US

Most of the 2013 illegal pesticide residues were found in produce imported from other countries and contained very low levels (a fraction of a part per million). The majority of the time they did not pose a health risk.

One exception occurred in 2013 when DPR discovered Cactus pads, imported from Mexico, that were tainted with an organophosphate-based pesticide. This had the potential to sicken people. DPR worked with the CA. Dept. of Public Health to issue an alert to consumers in February 2014. DPR also worked diligently to remove the entire product it from store shelves and distribution centers. In addition, DPR asked the US Food and Drug Administration to inspect produce at the borders and points of entry to stop shipments into California.

California has been analyzing produce for pesticide residues since 1926 and has developed the most extensive pesticide residue testing program of its kind in the nation. The 2013 pesticide residue monitoring data and previous years are posted at: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/enforce/residue/rsmonmnu.htm

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Homeowners: Your Gardeners Need License to Apply Pesticides

Homeowners Urged To Make Sure Gardeners Who Apply Pesticides Have License

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is urging all homeowners to check that their maintenance gardener (landscaper) has a state maintenance gardening (MG) pest control business license from DPR if they are occasionally applying pesticides on their lawns. Homeowners can do so on the DPR website’s License and Certificate Holder List Page.

“Homeowners may not realize that maintenance gardeners are applying chemistry to their lawns,” says DPR director Brian Leahy. “We want to try and ensure they are doing so in a responsible manner.”

The license ensures that the person applying pesticides has been properly trained to use them on lawns and garden areas. If used properly, pesticides should not cause harm to humans or pets. However, improper use may result in illnesses or environmental problems.

Pesticides used on lawns and gardens may be washed to street storm drains and into local rivers, streams and even sensitive wetlands miles away. This may impact aquatic life.

“Your lawn may only be a small piece of land, but collectively, California lawns amount to many acres,” said Leahy. “Homeowners can play a significant role to reduce the amount of pesticide pollution (runoff) from lawns that are entering our waters through storm drains.”

Under California law, anyone who applies pesticides, even if it is only incidental to other maintenance gardening tasks, must have this DPR maintenance gardening pest control business license and be registered with the local county agricultural commissioner’s office.

In California, there are about 100,800 landscapers employed in the public and private sector who are responsible for maintaining homes, parks, golf courses, schools and plantings around malls, offices, restaurants and other locations.

Learn more about how your landscapers can obtain a certificate/ license at
 http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/license/maintgardeners.htm

 

 

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EPA Announces Voluntary Process to Provide Applicators with Online Access to Pesticide Labeling

Today, EPA is launching a new voluntary process by which registrants can opt to make legally valid pesticide labeling accessible online. Until now, no version of online labeling has been legally valid for the purpose of making a pesticide application.

This Web-distributed labeling system will initially focus on agricultural and industrial pesticides and professional applicators.

Electronic or online labeling – called Web-distributed labeling – will allow pesticide applicators to download streamlined labeling, including instructions specific to the state and the use site where an application will be made.

Labels accompanying pesticide products in stores can include more than 30 pages of instruction. This new process will allow for online access to portions of the label such as directions for use, first aid and environmental statements for certain use sites.

Web-distributed labeling should provide:

• Improved compliance with the instructions on pesticide labels by making labels easier to access, read and comprehend

• Quicker implementation of measures to protect public health and the environment

• Faster access to new pesticide uses

• Lower costs for Industry and the EPA

The actual labeling on the container will not be shortened in any way with the addition of Web-distributed labeling. The Pesticide Registration Notice (PR Notice 2014-1) is effective immediately.

For more information, please see the announcement in the Federal Register  or http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/regulating/labels/distribution/.

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Change in Policy on Fumigant Puts Farmers in Bind

Source: California Farm Bureau Federation 

New restrictions have been placed on an important crop protection tool used on more than 40 different California fruit, vegetable, tree and vine crops.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has ended a policy that allows growers in certain areas—also known as townships—to acquire necessary quantities of the soil fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene—sold under the trade name Telone—above an annual allocation cap.

The amount of Telone allowed to be used annually is based on potential exposure averaged over a 70-year span. DPR had allowed more to be used when requested, with the understanding that lesser amounts would subsequently be used so as not to exceed the averaged, 70-year limit.

The affected areas are largely in Fresno, Tulare, Merced, Monterey, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. These areas have used more than the yearly limit of 90,250 pounds set for each township, which is 36 square miles. Some 450 townships in 42 counties use 1,3-D, with about 10 townships likely to be affected by the new policy, according to DPR.

Growers of crops such as sweet potatoes, almonds, walnuts, grapes and strawberries use 1,3-D as a preplant soil fumigant to give their ground a clean start and protect their crops against nematodes and diseases that result in lower yields and quality.

Fumigants continue to face tighter regulatory restrictions, leaving growers with fewer pest management options and less-effective materials. With the international phase-out of methyl bromide, growers have increasingly turned to alternatives such as 1,3-D, and they say the latest limits on the product erode their ability to produce their crops.

“Food costs are going to go up,” said David P. Souza, a sweet potato grower in Merced County, “because the less we produce, the more it’s going to cost. Hopefully, people are ready to adjust to that.”

DPR officials said they understand that no longer granting the exemptions will present challenges for farmers. But DPR Director Brian Leahy said the department “believes in being very protective when it comes to fumigants.”

“We continuously evaluate their use,” Leahy said, noting that DPR has been reviewing 1,3-D since 2009 to assess its toxicity and risk. The department said it expects to complete the study in 18 months.

David Doll, a University of California pomology farm advisor in Merced County, said the change in DPR policy has created a real bind for almond growers who had made planting decisions based on the belief that they would be able to fumigate with Telone.

“I think it caught a lot of people by surprise,” he said. “There were a lot of farmers who were expecting (the cap) to be raised and more Telone to be released, and when it wasn’t, I was getting one call after another from farmers who said they weren’t getting any Telone and they didn’t know what to do with regard to planting their almond orchard.”

He said he’s been advising almond farmers to treat what they can with the limited Telone, if they can get it, and then consider applying chloropicrin, which he said is less effective in managing nematodes but works well against Prunus replant disease. Doll said after seeing his own trial work, he consistently recommends fumigating before replanting.

“I’ve seen the stuff work. I’ve watched orchards developed with and without fumigants,” he said, noting that fumigated trees not only produce a crop earlier, but they have higher yields and also use water and nutrients more efficiently.

“If we have an efficient-running operation, we then can trim back our nitrogen, our water and maintain same or greater production,” Doll added.

Merced County farmer Bob Weimer, who grows sweet potatoes, almonds, walnuts and peaches, said the new policy on Telone comes at an especially difficult time when growers are already struggling with dwindling water supplies due to drought.

“If we’re hindered with disease issues underground attacking the roots, then the problems become exacerbated with a shortage of water,” he said.

He said growers’ inability to control pests and diseases wastes critical resources such as water, fertilizer and labor, and undermines the sustainability of the land.

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