Pesticides continue to be a pervasive threat to California's ecosystems according to a report released by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR). The report, Disrupting the Balance: Ecological Impacts of Pesticides in California, calls on the California Environmental Protection Agency and the federal government to ban three pesticides--the organophosphate insecticides diazinon and chlorpyrifos, and the carbamate insecticide carbofuran.
Over the last 30 years, the agrochemical industry has turned from organochlorines such as DDT to these neurotoxic organophosphate and carbamate pesticides. Use of these toxic nerve poisons continues to grow, with an 18% increase in California between 1991 and 1995. In California, some 17 million pounds of organophosphate and carbamate pesticides are applied annually in urban and agricultural settings.
The report's specific findings include:
The report also reveals that pesticides are used routinely in national wildlife refuges, despite laws mandating that protection of wildlife and the environment take highest priority in these areas. In the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge, pesticides that are toxic to wildlife are routinely used on potatoes, sugar beets, and onions grown within the refuge. In 1992, five bald eagles died from secondary exposure when the organophosphate terbufos was applied to sugar beets in the refuge. A new integrated pest management plan developed for the refuge still permits the use of a number of neurotoxic or endocrine-disrupting pesticides.
Some bird and fish species are already being impacted by pressures such as habitat loss. Disrupting the Balance warns that the deaths of even a few individuals from pesticides can push the entire species that much closer to extinction or prevent their recovery.
The report concludes with a chapter called "Restoring the Balance," which provides a brief overview of ecologically-based pest management strategies that represent a long-term, sustainable solution to controlling pests without using toxic chemicals.
The report is available at http://www.panna.org.
Hard copies of the report are free to California residents and US$10 for all others.
Pesticide Action Network North America
49 Powell Street #500, San Francisco, CA 94102
phone (415) 981-1771
fax (415) 981-1991