New Report Seeks to Reassure Consumers, Calm Unwarranted Safety Fears re: Pesticide
This time of year, food becomes a primary focus of conversation as we turn our thoughts to colder weather, cozy family dinners and the holidays. Food should be a source of fun, healthiness and good flavors – it should not be a source of fear. But, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, some groups actively promote inaccurate messaging designed to evoke fear in an effort to promote one farming method over others.
Study after study and government sampling programs repeatedly confirm the safety of produce. Decades of studies also show the significant health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including the prevention of diseases and increased lifespan. Yet these groups continue promoting disparaging messaging and have even increased the veracity of their statements in recent promotional efforts.
Even more concerning is this is done in light of peer reviewed research which is showing that when consumers are exposed to inaccurate messaging about “high” residues, they state they are less likely to purchase any produce – organic or conventionally grown. With only one in 10 Americans eating enough produce each day, registered dietitians and nutritionists have a hard enough time working with clients and consumers on overcoming barriers to consumption, now they also have to counter safety fears? Doesn’t seem right.
Now a new report seeks to reassure consumers by describing how information from complex risk assessments can be misinterpreted in news stories and by certain groups. “Consumers should feel confident, rather than uncomfortable, when purchasing fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Carl K. Winter, Cooperative Extension Food Toxicology Specialist Emeritus at the University of California, Davis, and chair author of the Council of Agriculture Science and Technology publication. Continue reading blog post.
2018 Air Monitoring Shows Most Pesticides Below Health Screening Levels
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released air monitoring results indicating that most of the pesticides monitored in the DPR air monitoring network in 2018 were found below levels that indicate a health concern.
However, data from a separate two-year study of the pesticide 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), a known carcinogen, shows air concentrations in Parlier (Fresno County) will require further action. 1,3-D is used to fight pests that attack a wide range of crops, including almonds, grapes, strawberries, and sweet potatoes.
“Air quality is fundamental for all Californians, and the latest data from DPR’ s air monitoring network shows levels of agricultural pesticides in most communities that are well within our public health standards,” said Val Dolcini, DPR acting director. “In many cases, the amount of pesticide in the air was negligible, but our scientists will continue to use this data to help DPR develop plans to reduce the presence of 1,3-D in the future.”
In 2018, DPR, with assistance from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, monitored air concentrations of 31 pesticides and 5 pesticide breakdown products in eight agricultural communities. The monitoring stations are in Shafter (Kern County), Santa Maria, Cuyama (Santa Barbara County), Watsonville (Santa Cruz County) and Chualar (Monterey County), Lindsay (Tulare County), Oxnard (Ventura County) and San Joaquin (Fresno County).
The air-monitoring network, which began in 2011, was established to help expand DPR’s knowledge of the potential long-term exposure and health risks from pesticides in the air. California is the only state that monitors air as part of its continuous evaluation of pesticides to ensure the protection of workers, public health, and the environment.
The 2018 air monitoring report shows that of the 36 pesticides and breakdown products measured at the monitoring sites, most did not exceed screening levels or regulatory targets.
Other highlights include:
- 8 pesticides were not detected at all and
- 17 pesticides were only detected at trace level.
In January 2018, however, the air monitoring results showed that the pesticide 1, 3-D had a 13-week average concentration in Shafter of 5.6 parts per billion (ppb), which is significantly above the short-term (13-week) screening level of 3.0 ppb. A screening level is a level set by DPR to determine if a more detailed evaluation is warranted to assess a potential health risk.
DPR, along with the Kern County ag commissioner, investigated this detection and determined that it largely arose from a single application of 1,3-D made during this 13-week period. While this reading was not high enough to indicate an immediate health threat, DPR is consulting with other state agencies on next steps to reduce the exposures to 1,3-dichloropropene.
List of communities in the Air Monitoring Network
In addition to the 2018 annual air monitoring results mentioned above, DPR conducted a two-year air monitoring study of 1,3-D in Parlier (Fresno County) and Delhi (Merced County) from 2016 to 2018. The measured air concentrations in Parlier also exceed DPR’s screening levels and indicate that more mitigation is needed to reduce the exposures of this pesticide.
These findings will be discussed at the next Pesticide Registration and Evaluation Committee (PREC) on July 19. The meeting will be live webcast.
There Was a Big Decline of Hazardous Material Used in 2017
The amount of pesticides used statewide declined in 2017 according to new data from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. This includes a drop in many of the most hazardous chemicals, including pesticides that are carcinogens, and those with the potential to contaminate groundwater and air.
According to the 2017 Pesticide Use Report, the overall amount of pesticides used in California dropped to about 205 million pounds in 2017. That was a decrease of 2 percent from the previous year. Agriculture use, which accounts for the greatest pesticide use in California, dropped by 3.7 million pounds (1.9 percent) from 2016. Pesticide use in other applications, including landscaping and structural pest control, also decreased in 2017.
“This report demonstrates that California’s farmers continue to lead the way when it comes to using more sustainable pest management tools and techniques,”said Val Dolcini, Acting Director of DPR. “DPR looks forward to continuing its collaboration with growers, community groups, and other interested citizens to ensure that these pesticides are used in the safest manner possible. “
California produces nearly half of American grown fruits and vegetables, and the amount of pesticides used varies annually depending upon pest problems, weather and other factors.
You can see a short video at https://youtu.be/QKgExqdRpNM
Other highlights of the 2017 Pesticide Use Report data include:
- The use of carcinogenic pesticides decreased by 5.6 percent to 41.7 million pounds, compared to 44.2 million pounds in 2016.
- The use of fumigant pesticides decreased by 5.8 percent to 39.5 million pounds, compared to 41.9 million pounds the previous year.
- The use of pesticides that are toxic air contaminants decreased by 6.4 percent to 43 million pounds, compared to 45.9 million pounds in 2016.
- The use of pesticides with the potential to contaminate ground water decreased by 25.3 percent to 0.4 million pounds compared to 0.5 million pounds in 2016.
- The use of pesticides identified as cholinesterase inhibitors, which can affect the nervous system, decreased by 2.6 percent to 4.2 million pounds compared to 4.3 million pounds in 2016. The pesticide chlorpyrifos is included in this category. In 2017, the use of chlorpyrifos increased by 5 percent to 946,000 pounds, compared to 903,000 pounds in 2016. However, overall use of chlorpyrifos has been decreasing for the last decade, and last month, DPR announced plans to cancel the registration of this pesticide.
- The use of biopesticides, which have been identified as likely to be low risk to human health and the environment, increased to approximately 8.1 million pounds. This is a 5.5 percent increase from 7.7 million pounds used in 2016.
The pesticide-use data, which has become more comprehensive in the decades since such information started being collected in the 1950s, helps support DPR in its regulatory and enforcement mission. It can be viewed online: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/
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.
#GiveACrop: Simple Message About Crop Protection Tools
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Sarah Macedo is the communications manager for CropLife America, a trade association that assists and advocates for their members, based in Washington D.C. They are the manufacturers, formulators, and distributors that manufacture organic and non-organic pesticides,
Macedo explained the #GiveACrop campaign, which puts a positive message for the need for crop protection products in agriculture.
“Go to GiveACrop.org, take a look at those memes along with myths and facts. We just want to talk about things in a realistic person-to-person way and not get too into this science, but just kind of talk about why pesticides are necessary,” Macedo said.
“Regarding the Give a Crop videos, we have heard from both farmer friends, adversaries, and consumers. We had a lot of the FFA kids who absolutely love them, which is great since that is our target audience; we do know that they are sharing that with their friends who are in the on-ag space,” she noted.
“We don’t have a lot of money behind it, so we have been promoting it on social media, and we’ve gotten great pickup even from folks who normally aren’t the friendliest in the ag space. They’ll watch one, and they’ll have posted and saying, ‘we may not necessarily agree, but these are funny and to the point,’” Macedo explained
Again, Crop Life America is a trade association representing the manufacturers, formulators, and distributors of organic and non-organic pesticides.
“We include government affairs, science and regulatory communications experts, and those from the legal profession who help our members, and our members And we advocate on their behalf to make sure that no regulations are going unchecked, that everything is based on sound science and getting the information out about the benefits of pesticides and why they’re used and about American farming in general,” Macedo said.
Microbes Company Promotes Biostimulants for Ag
By Mikenzi Meyers, Contributing Editor
The term “regulation” is often an unattractive vernacular for farmers and ranchers, just as “pesticide” or “chemical use” would be for the uneducated public. Amy Roberts, Regulatory Affairs Manager for Lallemand Plant Care based in Montreal, Canada, is working to make both sides come together.
California Ag Today caught her comments at the 2018 Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA) Fall Meeting and Sustainability Symposium in Rochester. Roberts has been appointed the 2019 chair of BPIA
Lallemand Plant Care is a company that specializes in the use of microbes in agriculture for pesticides and biostimulants. However, Roberts has assisted them in taking on an even greater task.
“We’d like to be a voice to help improve things in a regulatory standpoint and perception standpoint,” she explained, and with the organization growing to represent the industry as a whole, “the goal seems tangible.”
This doesn’t come without its obstacles though, and Roberts noted that there is a lack of clarity for the regulatory framework, making products harder to market.
“It’s challenging for people to market them, and it’s challenging for growers and users to understand what they are and how they should be using them,” she said.
This combined with the continuous hesitation towards pesticides and biostimulants from people unfamiliar with the industry makes education and understanding on both ends that much more important.
More information can be found at www.bpia.org
Soares: DPR Interpretation of Cannabis is Wrong
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
George Soares, a partner in Kahn, Soares, and Conway, a law firm based in Sacramento, recently spoke about the issues surrounding cannabis. He is managing partner of the firm and represents several agricultural commodity and trade groups in Sacramento.
He spoke at the recent California Associations of Pest Control Advisors (CAPCA) annual meeting in Anaheim. He touched on the fact that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is not thinking of the public in their handling of crop protection materials on cannabis.
“The people of California have decided that cannabis can be consumed by the public,” Soares said. “The question is how to grow the cannabis under the regulation.
Currently, the chemicals and fertilizers used to grow the cannabis are all illegal.
“So far, the solution is that we make it legal by stretching the interpretation of the law,” he explained.
By law, pesticides have to be labeled for use, and eligible crops must be on the label.
“The pesticides being used are being interpreted in ways to make it legal to use on cannabis,” Soares said. “Think about the damage that is doing to the legal structure of what we all adhere to.”
“DPR would never let a pesticide be used off-label, but when it comes to cannabis, it looks like the government is willing to let it slide,” he said.
Aza-Direct Targets Critical Pests
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Aza-Direct, with the active ingredient Azadirachtin, is one of the most potent, reduced risk insect pest controls among all the natural pesticides.
With four modes of action, Aza-Direct targets critical pests such as spider mites, thrips, whitefly, aphids, and lygus. It’s very safe with beneficial insects, especially bees, to help maintain the natural balance within the crop.
The product has a lot of excellent benefits regarding those four modes of action, explained Patrick Holverson, Director of Ag Business with Parry America Inc., which manufactures the active ingredients for Aza-Direct.
“Because of the four modes of action, you will not get a resistance buildup like you can with standard chemicals,” Holverson said. “What I like about it, many growers in California will apply Aza-Direct in anticipation before the target pest hits because it is not a contact killer; it takes two or three days to get into the pest’s system to reduce the population.”
Furthermore, the material is an excellent repellent and as well as an anti-feeding agent.
“Those pests who stay in the treated field will experience severe feeding cessation due to a locked jaw and digestive system,” Holverson said. “So, the pests that do feed on the plant, the material acts as an insect growth regulator that affects both the eggs and the larva, preventing them from reaching maturity.”
Holverson said that in strawberries, Aza-Direct controls two significant pests—including two-spotted spider mite and lygus—that come in after losing their host crop.
“The product prevents puckered strawberries and increases the value of the crop,” he said. “It can be used on both organic and conventional crops.”
It has a zero-day pre-harvest interval, and four-hour re-entry, which is essential in a crop such as strawberries.