While many countries do not have regulations to protect local residents from exposure to pesticide crop treatments, California has made a landmark decision to force farms to limit treatments near homes, schools and living areas.
The application of pesticides to crops disperses large quantities of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides into the environment. With the wind, phytosanitary products can drift several kilometers and expose populations to these toxic products intended to kill species that harm agricultural yields.
Strengthening restrictions on pesticide spraying near homes and schools.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) has directed the 58 county agricultural commissioners to take an unprecedented and aggressive series of measures.
Officials are now responsible for protecting residents from agricultural pesticide drift.
The first is to strictly enforce all pesticide health protection measures around homes and schools during the COVID-19 emergency.
Second, to ban pesticide treatments when there is a risk of contamination of people not involved in the pesticide application process.
In addition, the California government is now giving priority to investigating violations near homes and schools.
Finally, the reporting of pesticide incidents will be reinforced by a mobile application to report pesticide drift.
Fines finally commensurate with the stakes.
Farms that break these rules now face fines of up to $5,000 "per person, per incident".
This is a radical change from the past. In the past, if an investigation revealed that an application affected a school or a home, the farmer only risked an overall fine for pollution.
From now on, this same fine is multiplied by the number of people affected. So if pesticides drift after a spraying on a school of 500 students, the farmer no longer faces a $5,000 fine but a $2.5 million fine.
The effect is much more dissuasive ...
A policy that meets citizens' expectations.
For decades, people living near farms, environmental advocates and farm workers' representatives have been campaigning for such measures against the effects of pesticide drift. The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has chosen to challenge the intensive agriculture and chemical lobby on behalf of the health of his fellow citizens.
This ordinance recognizes the extraordinary importance of reducing the threat of pesticide exposure among California's most vulnerable communities during this COVID-19 crisis, with a focus on growing a strong, climate-friendly agricultural economy while moving away from the use of harmful chemicals," said Adam Vega, coordinator of the Ventura County coalition that advocates for "Californians for Pesticide Reform".
"As a resident whose community has been ravaged by neighbouring farms whose sprays reach kindergarten and elementary school children, making our neighbors sick, I am forever grateful to the Gavin Newsom government for its bold and visionary leadership in protecting everyone in California," said Heather Collins of the City of Ojai in Ventura County.
"The governor's letter and the directive from CalEPA (California Environmental Protection Agency) make it very clear that there is a new sheriff in town regarding pesticide abuse that will put the protection of people above the promotion of pesticides," said James Wheaton, president of the Environmental Law Foundation, which has provided legal assistance to groups calling for reform.
Covid-19 effect ?
There is an awareness that a population exposed to poor indoor or outdoor air quality due to pesticide pollution is a population that experiences a significant increase in the risk of developing serious chronic diseases.
A risk which is amplified by confinement, when this population spends 95% of its time in its home and for which there is a co-morbidity link established between pollution and serious forms of affection by Covid-19.
While it is difficult to see anything positive in this pandemic, it must be recognized that in this case it has allowed the rapid implementation of drastic measures to protect the health of Californians in the long term.