- Use of cancer-causing pesticides in California has more
than doubled in the past eight years, up 127% between 1991 and 1998, according
to a report released by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA).
Since 1996, use of carcinogens has remained within 0.5 million pounds of
the highest level ever reported, with no downward trend in sight. The report,
Hooked on Poison: Pesticide Use in California 1991-1998, was released by
the statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform. The coalition
was joined by cancer and health organizations and physicians who signed
a joint letter to Governor Davis calling for leadership to end the use
of carcinogenic pesticides.
- Between 1991 and 1998 more than 1.5 billion pounds of
pesticides were applied in California including agricultural and non-agricultural
uses. Hooked on Poison finds that total reported pesticide use rose 40%
between 1991 and 1998, and that over the last three years, use has remained
at alarmingly high levels. These use patterns show no trend toward decreasing
dependence on toxic pesticides.
- Approximately one-third of pesticides used in 1998 are
known to be particularly toxic to humans. These pesticides are classified
as acute poisons, carcinogens, neurotoxins, reproductive or developmental
toxins or are known to have contaminated groundwater in California. Use
of these most hazardous, "California Bad Actor" pesticides rose
sharply between 1991 and 1998 from 50.4 million pounds to 63.9 million
pounds, peaking in 1995.
- The total pounds of pesticides used on California cropland
increased 51% between 1991 and 1998 -- from 129 million pounds of active
ingredients to 195 million pounds. During this same time period, the number
of acres planted remained approximately constant. The result was a dramatic
increase in intensity of pesticide use--up 60% from 14.4 to 23 pounds per
acre. One quarter of all pesticides used in the U.S. are applied in California,
even though planted acreage in the State represents only 2-3% of total
U.S. cropland. Crops that have the highest intensity of pesticide use are
strawberries, dates, sweet potatoes, pears and lemons.
- Use of pesticides outside of agriculture is extremely
difficult to estimate. Only 7% of reported pesticide use falls in this
category; however, pesticide sales data indicate that many more pounds
of pesticides are applied but not reported. This gross underestimate is
due to the fact that there are no requirements to report consumer pesticide
use (estimated to be about 20% of total use) and some institutional and
manufacturing uses. Non-agricultural applications of pesticides are of
particular concern because they are applied in close proximity to where
large numbers of people live and work.
- The report finds that government agencies have no coherent,
long-term strategy guiding growers and other users to transition their
pest control practices to least-toxic approaches. It recommends that the
California Department of Pesticide Regulation and U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency take a proactive stance to reduce pesticide use, including the following
- * Phaseout use of the worst pesticides, including carcinogens,
acute poisons, reproductive and developmental toxicants, neurotoxins and
pesticides that are known to contaminate California groundwater.
- * Increase funding and grower support for a transition
to least-toxic pest control.
- According to PANNA, state and federal agencies currently
have an "inadequate, haphazard patchwork of programs and regulations
to promote alternatives--but pesticide use trends show these efforts aren't
nearly enough. PANNA calls for a comprehensive plan to research and promote
- The report analyzed data from the California Department
of Pesticide Regulation annual pesticide use reports from 1991 to 1998,
the latest year for which data is available. The Pesticide Use Reporting
system tracks use of pesticide active ingredients used commercially in
agricultural and urban applications. It does not include consumer or most
institutional uses of pesticides.
- Copies of Hooked on Poison: Pesticide Use in California
1991-1998, are available from Pesticide Action Network North America at
(415) 981-1771. Free to California residents; US$10 for all others. The
report is also available at http://www.panna.org.
- Source/contact: Pesticide Action Network North America.
- PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource
guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage
by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North
America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance
sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.
- You can join our efforts! We gladly accept donations
for our work and all contributions are tax deductible in the United States.
Visit our extensive web site at www.panna.org to learn more about getting
- Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) 49 Powell
St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA Phone: (415) 981-1771 Fax:
(415) 981-1991 Email: email@example.com Web: http://www.panna.org
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