Californians should be aware of the unintended consequences of eliminating pest control tools when state regulators and lawmakers consider a pesticide ban.
By Renee Pinel, Special to CalMatters
Renee Pinel is president and CEO of the Western Plant Health Association, which supports the safe use of pesticides.
Earlier this year, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation initiated the first step in making new rules to further restrict the agricultural use of neonicotinoids, the most widely used pesticides to control agricultural and household pests.
Readers should consider the consequences when asked to support efforts to ban neonicotinoid pesticides such as Imidacloprid.
Pest control tools are highly regulated to protect human health and environmental safety. California has the most restrictive pesticide laws in the country. It is unique among states: Pesticides for agricultural or consumer use are reviewed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Pesticide Regulation. This second, full, independent review requires several additional years to complete.
The state panel that reviews pesticides for safe use in California voted unanimously last month that Imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide, poses no risk to drinking water, does not pose a risk to human health, and is not likely to do so in the future.
For 15 years, the state pesticide regulator has monitored drinking water wells for presence of Imidacloprid. Of more than 700 drinking samples, only one exceeded state health standards for detectable pesticides, and panel members agreed that the one detection most likely was a false reading. The review panel recommended to the director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation that no action beyond current label directions are needed.
Assembly Bill 2146, which would ban use of neonicotinoid pesticides except on agricultural commodities, should not become law. It poses a risk to agriculture and reduces the pest control tools we have. For example, controlling invasive insects is an important part of combating devastating wildfires that are putting so many California communities at risk. Neonicotinoids often are the only tools available to combat deadly boring insects, which are killing trees in urban areas as well as in forests. Wildfire spreads rapidly among dead trees.
Further, if these pesticides cannot be used in urban areas, pests will move out of backyard citrus trees and into commercial citrus orchards. Eight out of 10 citrus trees in California grow in urban backyards. To prevent the insect-borne diseases in California that have devastated the citrus industries in Florida, Texas and parts of northern Mexico, pests must be controlled.
Read an opposing viewpoint on this topic here.