Report Confirms Trend Toward Use of Environmentally-Friendly and Reduced Risk Pesticides

9/13/2011 7:39 AM


A new report examining pesticide use trends in California provides clear indication that farmers are reducing their use of older, more stringently regulated pesticides in exchange for newer, environmentally-friendly methods to control pests.   The report, issued by the Alliance for Food and Farming, analyzes California Department of Pesticide Regulations Pesticide Use Report data, which shows that application of older, broad-based pesticides has declined 66 percent over the past 12 years.

“The purpose of this report is to examine whether long-term pesticide use trends support the widely-held belief that farmers are increasingly using Integrated Pest Management strategies and more modern tools targeted toward specific pests,” said James Wells of Environmental Solutions Group and former director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR), who authored the report and conducted the analysis of CDPR Pesticide Use Report data. “The analysis shows a dramatic drop in the use of organophosphate and carbamate pesticides from 1998 to 2009. More importantly, the decline has been steady for the 12 year period, indicating that it is not just the result of ‘low pest’ years, but a clear trend in pest management strategies.”

The report shows that organophosphate and carbamate pesticides currently represent just two percent of all pesticides used in California agriculture.  According to the most recent data available, 39 percent of the pesticides applied are approved for use in organic agriculture systems.  In fact, two of the top three pesticides used by California farmers are approved for organic production.  The remainder of all pest control products applied is made up of all other pesticides and includes several newer, reduced risk compounds that are common tools used by farmers as part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies.

While data is from California only, the Pesticide Use Report from the CDPR is considered to be the most comprehensive in the world. Under the program, all agricultural pesticide use must be reported monthly to county agriculture commissioners, who in turn report the data to the CDPR.  Similar use trends on a national basis were recently reported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

It is very gratifying, but not surprising, to see these numbers so clearly reflect the shift in farming practices to IPM and other environmentally-friendly farming methods over the past decade.  We knew this trend was happening but it is good to see it quantified in this analysis.

Whenever pesticides are used by California farmers, that use is strictly controlled by the most advanced regulatory system in the nation.  Farmers who grow the food you see in stores also feed it to their own families.  In addition, they often live and work on their farms, which is strong motivation to use the most up-to-date and safest tools to control pests and diseases.

Click here to view the full report titled Pesticide Use Trends in California Agriculture.

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