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PANUPS: Cal Pesticide Use Up

                         P A N U P S
                   Pesticide Action Network 
                        North America
                       Updates Service
                   EMAIL: panna@panna.org

September 19, 1997

Dramatic Increase in Dangerous Pesticide Use in California

Use of pesticides that cause cancer increased 129% in 
California between 1991 and 1995 according to a report 
released this week by the Pesticide Action Network North 
America (PANNA) and Californians for Pesticide Reform, a 
coalition of public interest groups. More than 6.5 pounds of 
pesticide active ingredients are used per person per year in 
California -- more than double the national rate of 3.1 
pounds per capita.

For the study, PANNA staff collected official state and 
federal data on pesticide use, agricultural production and 
toxicology of particular pesticides. They then combined these 
data to produce a comprehensive view of pesticide use in 
California from 1991 to 1995.

The report shows that total reported pesticide use in the 
state increased 31% during this time period, rising from 161 
million to 212 million pounds of pesticide active ingredient. 
Approximately 90% of all reported pesticide use occurs in 
production agriculture -- agricultural pesticide use 
increased 37% between 1991 and 1995. The increases in use 
were not due to increases in planted acreage, since according 
to data published by the state of California, acreage 
statewide has remained nearly constant during this time 
period. Instead, intensity of agricultural pesticide use 
increased 35%, from an average of 18 to nearly 25 pounds per 
harvested acre.

During this period, use of acutely toxic systemic nerve 
poisons increased 52% to almost nine million pounds. (These 
pesticides disrupt the enzymes that control the nervous 
system.) The total volume of carcinogens, reproductive 
hazards, endocrine disruptors, Category I highly acute 
systemic poisons, Category II nerve toxins and Restricted Use 
Pesticides increased 32% between 1991 and 1995, and now 
comprise 72 million pounds or 34% of total reported pesticide 
use in the state.

Pesticides are applied much more heavily on some crops than 
others. California strawberries are grown on only about 
23,000 acres, yet farmers use over seven million pounds of 
pesticides on the crop each year. Strawberries are the most 
intensively treated crop in the state, receiving an average 
of over 300 pounds of pesticide active ingredient per acre 
per year.

Eight adjacent countries in the San Joaquin Valley, where 
intensive farming is a primary land use, account for 60% of 
reported pesticide use in the state. Heavy pesticide use also 
occurs in California's other major agricultural areas: the 
Central Coast, the Southern Deserts, the North Coast wine 
country and the Sacramento Valley. In addition, there is a 
large but unreported use of pesticides in homes and gardens.

PANNA and CPR criticized California Governor Wilson and the 
Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) for keeping the 
public in the dark about pesticide use trends and for not 
addressing the problem. According to the groups, reducing 
pesticide use requires regulation of pesticides, research 
into and implementation of alternatives, and an informed 
public with access to information about pesticide use. They 
called on the state to honor the public's right to know about 
release of toxic materials into the environment. The state 
should also improve public access to data on pesticide use by 
producing annual reports summarizing pesticide use in the 
state over time by crop, geographic region and by toxicity of 
pesticides, and by making data more accessible and 
affordable. They also called on the Governor and DPR to 
launch a statewide effort to reduce pesticide use.

Veda Federighi, a spokeswoman for the Department of Pesticide 
Regulation, responded by calling the report "bogus science." 
"The most important component of risk is not toxicity, it's 
exposure, and we regulate so that exposures to chemicals are 
at acceptable levels," Federighi said. Ralph Lightstone, an 
attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, 
disagreed. "If you spray a lot more, then there's bound to be 
more exposure," he said. "I think a lot of the chemicals in 
use today can't be used safely . . . We should use less toxic 

"Rising Toxic Tide" is the second in a series of reports to 
be released by Californians for Pesticide Reform, a statewide 
coalition of over 50 organizations ranging from statewide 
health, consumer and environmental non-profits to volunteer 
community groups.

Source: Rising Toxic Tide, Pesticide Action Network North 
America, 1997. San Francisco Examiner, September 18, 1997. 
San Jose Mercury, September 18, 1997.

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