Soapbox

Another View: Pesticides are used safely on California farms

Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, center, talks with farmworker Federico Arellano about pesticides during her visit to Pacific Triple E Farm in Stockton on Oct. 20.
Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, center, talks with farmworker Federico Arellano about pesticides during her visit to Pacific Triple E Farm in Stockton on Oct. 20. The Associated Press

As a farmer who works directly with pesticides, it’s maddening to hear folks who have no first-hand knowledge make unsubstantiated claims about their use and safety.

The latest is the comment from the Center for Biological Diversity, claiming that glyphosate is “probably” a human carcinogen, citing a World Health Organization report (“California needs to rid the Valley of cancer-causing pesticide,” Viewpoints, Nov. 9).

There seems to be a misconception that pesticides are always bad. Shampoo, soap, every disinfectant you apply in your house and rub on your hands are all pesticides. Technology, including pesticides we use on our farms and ranches, has positioned the United States in general and California in particular to be recognized as producing the safest food in the world with the least environmental impact.

Glyphosate, known by its brand name Roundup, has contributed to a safer work environment for me, my sons and employees who use it to control weeds, and only when we need it.

Before glyphosate, we had to apply preventive herbicides, many of which were more difficult and dangerous to handle and had greater potential to damage the environmental. Glyphosate use has increased because it is effective and safer to use.

As a farmer, I must go through training before I can purchase pesticides for my farm, then must report when, where and how much I use. My employees must also be trained. Ironically, any consumer can purchase pesticides, including glyphosate, at a local hardware store and use it without any training or reporting.

The Center for Biological Diversity said the eight poorest counties in California have used a lot of glyphosate. That’s not surprising, since those same counties produce an abundance of the state’s food. Some of those crops find their way to countries like China, where people are afraid to eat their own food.

The center should be more concerned about other countries that produce food with pesticides that do not meet the same standards as California’s. If Californians ate only imported food, it might lead to an appreciation for our rigorous guidelines.

Paul Wenger is president of the California Farm Bureau Federation and grows almonds and walnuts near Modesto. He can be contacted at pwenger@cfbf.com.

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