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The California State Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has released a draft plan that would, in effect, allow applicators and farmers to spray any of 79 toxic pesticides “anywhere in California, at any time into the indefinite future,” according to an Earthjustice press release.

CDFA’s proposed pest management plan would give them the authority to approve new pesticides or expand California’s spray program without public review. CDFA would not be required to analyze the potential health and environmental impacts in specific areas that are sprayed; and affected communities would have no opportunity to review or stop the application of chemicals in their own backyards.

“If the Department of Food and Agriculture is allowed to approve this plan, it will set a precedent for sweeping, unchecked power by state agencies in matters involving human and environmental health,” according to Debbie Friedman, founder of Moms Advocating Sustainability (MOMAS).

MOMAS and other environmental groups, including Earthjustice and the California Environmental Health Initiative, say CDFA’s environmental impact report fails to adequately address the impacts of pesticides on infants, children in schools that are sprayed, pregnant women, honey bees, and California’s drinking water.

Among the list of pesticides permitted under the draft plan are several neonicotinoids – which are known to harm pollinators – and chemicals linked to birth defects, cancer, and reproductive problems.

Another problematic aspect of the plan is the threat it poses to organic farming in California – by far the top producer of organic crops in the nation. Under the plan, organic farmers could be mandated to spray toxic pesticides as part of state treatment programs.

The environmental impact report acknowledges this could undermine organic farming, since “crops treated with pesticides would not be allowed to be marketed as organic” and “the lower price premium for non-organic products may have economic effects on organic farms.” However, CDFA summarily brushes off these concerns, saying organic farmers could just sell conventional products instead. So much for coexistence.

The plan is open for public review and comment until Friday, October 31. Stand up for organic farmers, pollinators, people, and the planet – and sign on to Earthjustice’s letter to the CDFA today!

Featured Image Credit: (CC) Tamina Miller

Annika Ihnat is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and communications consultant with a passion for public health, education, social justice, and sustainable food. When she’s not writing, editing, or consulting, you can find her practicing yoga, delighting in nature, and cooking up seasonal farmers market finds for family and friends.

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