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Salinas Valley workers and residents rally against chlorpyrifos

Paul Towers
Demonstrators call for a ban on chlorpyrifos.

Salinas Valley farmworkers and advocacy groups made a trip to Sacramento this week to rally for a ban on a pesticide called chlorpyrifos. 

The group demonstrated in front of the California Environmental Protection Agency and state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation headquarters, and delivered a petition signed by 167,000 California residents, along with a letter from 75 organizations, urging a ban. 

In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) declined to phase out the chemical. In 2015, E.P.A. scientists backed a ban, finding the pesticide routinely sprayed on Salinas Valley crops is too harmful to human health to use. But the new federal administration has rejected that science. 

After E.P.A. director Scott Pruitt made the announcement chlorpyrifos would remain on the market, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with his counterparts in seven other states, filed legal objections with the agency, saying Pruitt “has to put the health of the American people ahead of profits for companies.” 

Scientists have found chlorpyrifos to have negative effects on neural development, including autism and IQ loss in children.

Paul Towers is the organizing director and policy advocate for PAN, Pesticide Action Network in North America. He said that President Trump’s close ties adds to the conversation of chlorpyrifos.

“Unfortunately, I think we see a very cozy relationship between the pesticide manufacturer and the new Trump E.P.A.,” Towers said.

KCBX reached out to spokesperson Charlotte Fadipe with the Department of Pesticide Regulation but the agency refused to do an interview on the topic. However, Fadipe wrote in an emailed statement, “in California, this pesticide cannot be used without licensing, training and oversight by county agriculture commission.”

Towers said that amid scientific support for a ban, the E.P.A. under Trump is choosing sides.

“Here’s an agency that’s aiming to side with chemical companies and ignore the science,” Towers said.

DOW Chemical Company is one the largest chemical manufacturers in the world. CEO Andrew Liveris was appointed by Trump to oversee the American Manufacturing Council, the primary private sector advisory committee to the Secretary of Commerce.

In the emailed statement, Fadipe said the Department of Pesticide Regulation’s director has been “encouraging growers to use an alternative to this pesticide whenever possible,” and that the DPR will “look closely” at the pesticide to determine if additional restrictions are needed.

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