Stop the pesticide use now: IMMEDIATE CALL: Include Pesticide Reduction Strategies in CA Climate/Biodiversity Efforts!

“With more than 200 million pounds of agricultural pesticides used in California each year, climate, biodiversity and environmental justice efforts cannot succeed unless and until the state confronts California’s over-reliance on these poisonous chemicals.”

 IMMEDIATE CALL: Include Pesticide Reduction Strategies in CA Climate/Biodiversity Efforts!

Many of you signed onto our organizational sign-on letter last year calling for agricultural pesticide reduction strategies to be included in California’s climate and biodiversity statewide plans.  We could use your voices now to reiterate that point!
1. The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) is holding a series of regional, virtual workshops between April 27 and May 11, all from 4-6pm, and with Spanish interpretation to hear from the public about how to conserve 30% of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030 and accelerate nature-and agricultural-based solutions to address climate change 
– Please join one (or more) of the regional workshops below.  It’d be great for CNRA to hear from community members and organizational allies about the need to include agricultural pesticide reduction strategies as part of the  state’s commitment to addressing climate change and biodiversity loss.  Register HERE  for any of the following workshops. All the workshops are important, and you can talk about ag pesticides in any of them, but I’ve highlighted the workshops most relevant to agricultural pesticide use:
May 4th – North Coast Region
You can join any regional workshop (you don’t have to be from the region), but each workshop is tailored to the climate challenges and potential solutions particular to that region.
carcinogens used in Sonoma County per California Dept. Of Pesticide Regulations.

The first 45-60 minutes of each workshop is a series of presentations about the overall goal of this effort, along with some regional data about how climate change is expected to affect that particular region. Following the presentations, people are divvied up into breakout rooms to answer a series of questions aimed to get at how the public defines conservation; identifying which lands, species, etc. to prioritize for protections; what nature- or ag-based climate strategies are already successfully working and should be expanded; what new strategies should be adopted; what are the greatest challenges; and how to ensure solutions are equitable and that everyone has equitable access to nature and its benefits.

2. In addition to the workshops, CNRA is also collecting public input on the same topic via a brief, 15 question Input Questionnaire, which will be open through May 14, 2021.
If you want to follow these efforts directly, then sign-up for email updates by emailing with “NBS” in the subject line.
Finally, in case it’s helpful, below is some background information on pesticides’ role in greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, and environmental injustice.
In solidarity,

How do pesticides contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and limit the soil’s ability to sequester carbon?

  • 3 agricultural pesticides (the fumigants chloropicrin, metam sodium, dazomet), which alone account for approximately 20 million pounds of pesticide applications made each year to California fields, lead to 7- to 100-fold increases of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. 
    • Nitrous oxide emission levels remain elevated 48 days after the application of these fumigants, in contrast with fertilizer-induced nitrous oxide emissions, which return to background rates about two weeks after application.
  • Agricultural pesticides reduce the soil’s ability to sequester carbon dioxide.
  • Agricultural pesticides help prop up an export-driven, industrial agricultural model responsible for far more greenhouse gas emissions than is acknowledged in standard state measurements and which leads to food insecurity in the very California communities that grow our food.
  • Agricultural pesticide use inhibits soil microorganisms’ ability to absorb critical nutrients and transmit them to plants, often leading to the increased use of other greenhouse gas-producing synthetic inputs to make up for the nutrient loss (i.e., fertilizers), which also pollute groundwater
  • Agricultural pesticides are themselves petrochemicals – toxic chemicals made from oil and gas – that the oil and gas industry has bet on, with plans to build hundreds of new or expanded petrochemical facilities, even as we phase out the use of oil and gas.
  • Organic farming, which prohibits use of nearly all synthetic pesticides, results in more significant soil carbon sequestration than conventional farming does (from p.20 of NSAC’s “Agriculture and Climate Change: Policy Imperatives and Opportunities to Help Producers Meet the Challenge”)
    • “In a meta-analysis of 20 organic/conventional comparison trials from around the world, organic systems accrued an average of 400 lb [Carbon]/ac-year more than conventional systems, of which about 60 percent was sequestered in situ and 40 percent was imported in the form of compost, manure, and other organic amendments (Gattinger et al., 2012). Another meta-analysis of 59 studies found total [Soil Organic Carbon] averaging 19 percent higher in organic than conventional systems (Lori et al., 2017). In the U.S., a nationwide sampling of 659 organic fields and 728 conventional fields across the U.S. showed 13 percent higher total Soil Organic Matter (SOM) and 53 percent higher stable SOM in the organic soils (Ghabbour et al., 2017).
    • Most recently a meta-analysis examined 528 studies which each compared at least one organic farm to at least one conventional farm (Sanders and Hess, 2019). On average, organically managed soils had a 10 percent higher organic [Carbon] content and a higher annual [Carbon] sequestration rate of 256 kg [Carbon] /ha. Nitrous oxide emissions averaged 24 percent lower for organic farming, which results in a cumulative climate protection performance of 1,082 kg CO equivalents per hectare per year. Aggregate stability in soil was on average 15 percent higher (median) in organic farming; infiltration differed by 137 percent. Higher infiltration reduces soil erosion and soil loss, which means that organic farming reduces these occurrences by ‐22 percent and ‐26 percent, respectively (Sanders and Hess, 2019).”
How do pesticides affect biodiversity?
  • Pesticides are recognized, worldwide, as being one of the greatest causes of pollinator and other biodiversity loss.
  • America’s agricultural landscape is now 48 times more toxic to honeybees, and likely other insects, than it was 25 years ago, almost entirely due to pesticides. As a result, there’s been a precipitous and unsustainable decline in all pollinators (butterflies, bees, moths, etc.), which are critical for our food supply and are the basis of our entire ecosystem.
  • As insects have declined the numbers of insect-eating birds and fish have plummeted, affecting the entire food chain up the line.
  • Pesticide reductions that benefit biodiversity and the environment also lead to improvements to critical community resources, such as clean air and water.
How do pesticides contribute to environmental injustice?
  • Analysis of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s latest pesticide use reporting data (from 2018), combined with demographic data, reveals a pronounced racial disparity in concentration of pesticide use between counties with the largest share of Latinx residents and those with the smallest:
    • California counties with a majority Latinx population use 906% more pesticides per square mile than counties with fewer than 24% Latinx residents. The two groups of counties have a similar total population and area.
      • In the eleven counties with a majority Latinx population, there were 22 pounds of pesticides used per person in 2018, or 2,373 pounds per square mile.
      • By contrast, for the 25 counties with the lowest proportion of Latinx residents (fewer than 24%), pesticide use was just 2.4 pounds per person, or 262 pounds per square mile.
  • The greatest burden continues to be borne by the San Joaquin Valley, with well over half (108 million pounds) used in just five counties – Fresno, Kern, Tulare, San Joaquin and Madera. That equates to 33 pounds of pesticides for every person in those counties.
  • Among other health harms, exposure to agricultural pesticides can cause cancer, reproductive harm, damage to the nervous system, asthma and other respiratory ailments, and behavioral and learning disorders
  • Agricultural use disproportionately impacts Latinx communities in California: someone who lives in one of the 11 California counties with a majority Latinx population lives in a county where 14 times (1,362%) more carcinogenic agricultural pesticides and 11 times (1,074%) more reproductive and developmental toxicant pesticides are applied per person when compared to the 25 counties with the smallest Latinx populations by percentage.
With more than 200 million pounds of agricultural pesticides used in California each year, climate, biodiversity and environmental justice efforts cannot succeed unless and until the state confronts California’s over-reliance on these poisonous chemicals. Many farmers don’t want to use pesticides but have become trapped on a pesticide treadmill without the support, at scale, that’s needed to be able to adopt other farming practices and systems that will make their farms more resilient. By continuing to exclude the impact of pesticides on California’s climate and biodiversity efforts, the solutions we need end up underfunded and under prioritized.
Some examples of actions the state could take: 
  • incentivize institutional procurement (by public schools, hospitals, prisons, government buildings) of organic produce from local farmers, especially farmers of color – one of the fastest and most reliable ways of increasing organic farming and eliminating nearly all use of synthetic agricultural pesticides
  • provide direct funding and technical assistance to help farmers transition off of synthetic pesticides to organic farming, especially for small- and medium-scale farmers and farmers of color
  • provide funding to support farmers’ reduction of pesticide use and support community protections (such as creation of pesticide-free buffer zones on fields)
  • immediately begin phasing out use of the most hazardous pesticides that emit greenhouse gas emissions and/or account for the greatest biodiversity loss
  • cover the costs of organic certification and provide free technical support to farmers interested in transitioning to organic
  • immediately ban or begin phase out of the 85 pesticides that have already been banned or are being phased out in the European Union, China or Brazil