Pesticide Use Rises in California

Strawberry field

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation released data showing an extra 15 million pounds—nearly a ten percent increase—of pesticides were used in 2010 after four years of steady declines.

More than 173 million pounds of pesticides were applied across the state, which leads the nation in fruit and vegetable production. The excessive pesticide use covered a total of 75 million acres, according to the CDPR. Pesticide use fluctuates based on changes in the weather and economy said the agency, which credits 2010’s increase to a number of factors, including excessive rainfall (which gave way to mildew growth), improved water availability (which means more crops planted, thus more pesticides used), changes in crop prices (more affordable seeds and better market prices means more crops planted), and lower than normal temperatures in the summer and fall led to late harvests and more insect damage, increasing the need for pesticides.

Another key factor in the increase of pesticides is the type of crops grown. 2010 saw an increase in cotton, one of the most pesticide-reliant crops. The state also saw an increase in carrots, almonds, wine and raisin grapes, all of which showed an increased dependence on pesticides.

Fresno County, which is the top agriculture county in the state, ranked highest for pesticide use. Sulfur was the most used pesticide, growing by 10 percent to represent 27 percent of the state’s pesticide use. Telone use increased by 37 percent. It is commonly applied to strawberries, almonds, carrots, sweet potatoes and grapes.

Pesticides are linked to a number of human health and environmental risks including cancer, groundwater contamination and damage to the ozone layer.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.