Recently, I have read several articles in The Californian in which people are expressing their desire to know the “facts” and “science” behind pesticide safety in their community. They are not interested in simply hearing about how agriculture feels about pesticide safety. They want cold, hard facts.
Who can blame them? Over the past year, we’ve learned that we should rely on science to base our decisions on public health issues. We are learning that feelings are not facts and that agenda-driven hearsay is not scientific evidence.
If our industry has not done a good job explaining the facts on safety, then that’s on us. Our industry will work to do a better job providing the general public with more facts, data-based information and research findings.
With facts and objective data, our communities can gain a better understanding that the pesticides used throughout California are safe when applied according to the labels.
You want facts? Here they are.
Before a pesticide can be approved, the United States Environmental Protection Agency must first conduct a comprehensive safety review through an established scientific process that has been developed under multiple administrations, both Democrat and Republican. These pesticides can undergo over 300 human health and environmental safety reviews that can take up to 10 years to complete. To put that in perspective, some medical treatments, procedures and prescription drugs are currently being approved in one-tenth of the time of a pesticide.”
Part of the reason for the extensive review process for pesticides is that the scientific study and scrutiny of pesticides do not only cover general health safety issues. The EPA goes deeper with special studies that address the safety of the most vulnerable population groups – children, the elderly and exposures to workers. It also takes time for EPA to review potential impacts to the environment overall, as well as impacts to plant, animal and insect species requiring special consideration.
But for Californians, a federal review alone isn’t good enough. That is why state scientists re-review every product prior to allowing its use (as if the EPA findings did not exist).
For this second round of safety review, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation analyzes all of the studies again. Every aspect of these products is reviewed. Because of this extra regulatory step, it can take an additional five or more years before a product can be registered for use in California.
CDPR’s process is not a mere rubber-stamping of the EPA’s work or findings. Rather, CDPR scientists start from scratch to review the science submitted by pesticide manufacturers, as well as other sources the EPA may not have considered or requested. CDPR also scrutinizes all its scientific data and studies according to even more conservative scientific standards than those followed by the EPA.
Furthermore, CDPR’s reviews are not conducted in a bubble. The department closely consults with other science-based state agencies, including the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Air Resources Board, State Water Board, and even university experts specializing in pesticides.
Because our state has its own separate process, Californians can feel doubly confident in the safety of the pesticide products that are ultimately approved for use in the state and their communities.
Speaking of communities, here is one last fact I hope people will consider: Farmers in the Central Valley are not living in or managing their farms from remote locations like San Francisco, Los Angeles or even the city of Sacramento. They live in your communities. Their children go to the same schools as your children. They attend the same houses of worship as you. Their neighbors are made up of friends, colleagues and workers. Farmers want their homes and communities to be safe and healthy, just like you do. It defies imagination to suggest otherwise.
Know the facts. Follow the research. Trust the science and tough regulatory system. You can rest assured the farmers in your community are operating more safely and responsibly than anywhere else in the world.
Renee Pinel is president and CEO of Western Plant Health, a Sacramento-based trade association representing more than 90 percent of all the fertilizer and crop protection companies in California, Arizona and Hawaii.