Draft California Plant Pest Management Plan Threatens Health, Nature, and Organics

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–December 4, 2014.  Earlier this fall, in a state known for its environmental and public health-focused policy and forward thinking, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) released its draft Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR), which has been widely criticized by environmentalists. While PEIR has been characterized by state officials as providing an “overarching framework for efficient and proactive implementation of Statewide Program activities,” the proposed plant pest prevention strategy takes several steps backwards, giving CDFA authority to spray toxic pesticides anywhere in California, at any time into the indefinite future, with little to no recourse for those affected. Critics say that the new framework could have been a tremendous opportunity to chart a course toward sustainable, ecologically, and scientifically, sound pest management policy.

cdfaUnder California law, CDFA is required to prevent the introduction and spread of injurious insect or animal pests, plant diseases, and noxious weeds. According to CDFA, to carry out this function, the agency must “provide an up-to-date, transparent, and comprehensive evaluation of CDFA’s activities,” and comply with the environmental impact analysis requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The statewide program developed the draft PEIR.

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While the overarching goals and objectives of the program include the important concept of minimizing the impacts of pest management approaches on human health and urban and natural environments, most of the draft PEIR took an archaic, vague, and misguided approach to pest control, which identified spraying pesticides with little to no oversight as the primary means of combating pest problems.

Joining with 27 organizations, Beyond Pesticides signed on to Earthjustice’s near 100 page comments, identifying a litany of scientific, public health, environmental, regulatory, and legal issues within the draft PEIR, including a failure to recognize and implement viable alternatives of organic and ecologically-based integrated pest management (IPM) practices, adhere to important environmental laws and controls, like the Clean Water Act, provide detailed and meaningful programmatic evaluation criteria, and address health and environmental impacts.

“This plan’s analysis of health and environmental impacts is so general and cursory as to be useless for determining the actual impact of the Department of Food and Agriculture’s spraying in any specific location in California,” notes Earthjustice Attorney Elizabeth Forsyth, “Its provisions for future environmental review attempt to prevent public scrutiny of future program activities, including the agency’s approval of new pesticides, new treatment areas, and new target pests.”

Organic farmers and certifiers took issue with the PEIR, especially several provisions that could force organic farmers to spray non-organic pesticides as part of the state treatment programs, potentially leading to loss of organic certification and organic crop marketplace accessibility.

Public review and comment on the draft PEIR closed on October 31, 2014 and will be addressed and integrated into the final PEIR, which will be released at a later date. In the meantime, visit Beyond Pesticides website to learn more about the dangers of pesticides and how you and your community can spread the word on organic and least-toxic pest management methods.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: Earthjustice; California Department of Food and Agriculture, http://www.beyondpesticides.org

Summer and Fall at Prairie State College