State rubber stamps expanded usage of dangerous pesticides: concerned mothers fight back

Posted on Feb 18, 2015

For decades the state has been spraying California with dangerous pesticides in populated areas for insects it considers a pest to agriculture. Each year, more and more of these pesticides are sprayed. This past December, the state of California took their “business-as-usual” approach to an even more dangerous level when it approved the Department of Food & Agriculture’s multi-million dollar pesticide plan that allows itself to spray 79 toxic chemicals anywhere in our community, any time into the indefinite future, without any option for us to stop the spray.

Where can they forcibly spray?

Our schools, homes, parks and organic farms can all be subjected to mandatory spraying, according to the state.

Instead of modernizing the state’s agricultural system, the program uses decades-old, chemically intensive pest management approaches that ignore skyrocketing demand for organic food and mounting scientific evidence about the risks that pesticides pose to human health, bees, and the environment.

On the short list of pesticides used in the sprays are chlorpyrifos, which is banned in Europe and a recent U.S. EPA study found poses hazards to workers and drinking water; the neonicotinoid (nicotine) imidacloprid, which is highly toxic to humans and bees; the deadly, ozone-depleting fumigant methyl bromide; chloropicrin, which causes genetic damage and 2, 4-D best known as a component of Agent Orange, a defoliant widely used in the Vietnam War.

Total cost of the state’s war on bugs? Unknown.

But, if the case of the light brown apple moth is any indication, there’s a lot of money to be made spraying bugs. Over $8.9 million tax dollars was reported to have been spent trying to eradicate a moth from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties less than 6 years ago. Hundreds of people reported illnesses after the state aerially sprayed these populated counties with pesticides, repeatedly from low flying airplanes, for this garden-variety moth it deemed a threat to agriculture.

Despite real-world cases like the light brown apple moth, our elected officials have allowed more and more of these pesticides to be used on us each year and, adding insult to injury, we have been footing the bill.

It’s time to go beyond the old methods of releasing toxic pesticides into our community. Yes, we sometimes need to control pests, but the state plan ignores proven biological and ecological farming approaches for pest management in California and casually rejects, without evidence, modern growing techniques that are protective of pollinators, waterways, environmental health and human health.

In an effort to protect the health and well-being of our communities, a group of concerned mothers, Moms Advocating Sustainability, along with 10 other groups, filed a lawsuit against the state’s pesticide spray plan. The lawsuit outlines numerous ways that the spray plan violates state environmental laws, including failure to notify the public of future pesticide spraying and failure to analyze the impacts of the pesticides on human and environmental health, including harm to infants and contamination of drinking water. You can learn more about the lawsuit and the state pesticide program at Moms Advocating Sustainability.

But, the genie is already out of the bottle and there are moves afoot to spray for one of the state’s target insects right here in Los Angeles.

We don’t really know how much they will spray in our community or when but what we do know is that we’re about to find out unless we push back. Our elected officials need to hear from a lot of us before they realize that our neighborhoods belong to us, not the special interest groups behind this ill-conceived, expensive, toxic program. In short, we need more than moms to fight back.