California maintains historical pesticide use regulation lead

After a half-century of pesticide regulation, including that of new, potent materials available after World War II, the state of California was primed in the 1960s to move toward greater stringency.

(This is the second of two parts exploring historical highlights of the California Department of Pesticide Regulations and its antecedent agencies. The information is from a history provided by the department.)

Many public attitudes leading to the modern environmental movement can be attributed to Rachel Carson's book, "Silent Spring," which appeared in 1962.

Congress responded accordingly with the National Environmental Policy Act, enacted in 1969 and requiring federal agencies to consider environmental matters before undertaking new actions. It heralded a briskly paced succession of federal and state laws focused on pesticides during the next decade.

In 1970, California passed its version, the California Environmental Quality Act, which mandated environmental impact review of development projects in the state.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency also came into being that year and assumed the pesticide registration functions and tolerance-setting authority formerly assigned to the Food and Drug Administration.

Adds own scientists The same year the California legislature handed the Department of Agriculture authority over criteria for pesticide studies by manufacturers, restrictions on pesticide use, and elimination of materials harmful to the environment.

By 1972 the state department added its own scientists to review data submitted to support registration requests, a job previously performed by the University of California or other state agencies.

Amid these changes came a mill tax on dollar sales of pesticides, which continues to support California's regulatory program and its enforcement at the county level.

In recognition of the department's broader role in public health, safety, and welfare, its name was changed to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in 1972.

Accompanying that role were new regulations for handling of pesticides, protective clothing and equipment, and longer field re-entry periods after certain materials were applied.

Closed systems California would become the first state to require closed systems for mixing and loading of pesticides and to establish a pesticide-illness reporting system.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), dating back to 1947, was extensively overhauled for the 1972 version. Among amendments was federal coverage of intrastate registrations so states did not register pesticides that were not registered federally.

CDFA began licensing pest control advisors in 1972. That was aimed at setting standards for professional conduct for PCAs and required that recommendations be in writing, with the advisors legally accountable.

Federal grants following adoption of the amended FIFRA expanded the staffs of the department and county agricultural commissioners for fuller enforcement of regulations.

By 1977, pesticide regulation had become part of CDFA's new Division of Pest Management, Environmental Protection, and Worker Safety.

1980s legislation More legislation was to follow during the 1980s. New state law aimed at air pollution, birth defects, contamination of groundwater, and enforcement of pesticide regulations. Federal legislation on a national worker protection standard was initially modeled after California law, which exceeded the federal version.

New channels for data on assessment of dietary risk strengthened the residue-monitoring program. Combined with other legislation, the program focused on ensuring infants and children are protected from pesticide residues in food. Integrated with other programs, it became known as the "food safety program."

In 1990, as part of that program, California required all agricultural pesticide use be reported. Reporting mandates also came for uses on parks, golf courses, rangeland, and roadside and rail rights-of-way.

When the California Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1991, reorganization led to the DPR as part of the agency. DPR assumed all pesticide-related statutory responsibilities except for the biological control program and the pesticide residue laboratory, which remained with the CDFA.

The reorganization permitted DPR and the State Water Resources Control Board to coordinate activities and eliminate overlapping and inconsistent actions.

DPR continues its mission, which includes, in part, worker and environmental protection, encouraging use of reduced-risk pest management practices, and completion of a timely toxicological data base of all pesticide active ingredients.

Department grants recognize groups and individuals as innovators of integrated pest management techniques. Its pest management alliance program assists groups in pursuing reduced-risk pest management strategies.

In streamlining its operations, DPR agreed with U.S. EPA in 1994 to more closely link their respective pesticide registration programs. The long-term objective of the harmonization is to increase uniformity between the agencies.

Special attention is being given to registration of "more environmentally benign pest management strategies," allowing companies to submit applications for biochemical, microbial, and reduced-risk products to California authorities at the same time as the federal level. Last year, DPR initiated concurrent applications for antimicrobial products also.

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