Southern California environment news and trends

Native land: Campaign offers free seeds to smart California gardeners

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docentjoyce via flickr

This is a majestic view of Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay, Califr., with California Poppies lining the Bluff Trail.

The new “Go Native” campaign launched by Apply Responsibility is encouraging California gardeners to be vigilant in the responsible use of pesticides and water conservation, especially as we face soaring summer temperatures and potential water shortages. To that end, an online water conservation questionnaire will reward high scorers with seed packets for plants native to California, including poppies and tidy tips.

“Most California homeowners use the majority of their water caring for their gardens, plants and lawns,” said Fred Pearson, chairman of the Urban Pyrethroid Stewardship Group, the pesticide industry alliance behind Apply Responsibility. “With the snowpack only about 40 percent of normal this year, we felt it was a perfect time to broaden our water message this year to include conservation.”


New report ranks the cleanest — and most toxic — fruits and vegetables

msr/Flickr/Creative Commons

There has been much debate in the news of late regarding genetically modified foods (GMO), particularly in terms of identifying and for many, simply avoiding said produce. Here in California, the controversy has resulted in the Right to Know initiative landing on the November ballot. If passed, it would the first law in the country requiring labeling on all GMO food.

Pesticides are another area of controversy when it comes to produce, such as the current debates in California’s strawberry industry over fumigants. Treehugger has reported on the Environmental Working Group’s recent release of the eighth “Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” which ranks the pesticide load of 45 commonly consumed fruits and veggies. The numbers are culled from pesticide residue testing data from the US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration.


Fines levied in California for selling banned peach pesticide

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Phillippe Diederich/Getty Images

The current battles being waged across the state of California over pesticides continue to grow, most notably in regards to the embattled strawberry industry. But it's not just strawberries, as it was announced this week that a pair of pesticides dealers in the San Joaquin Valley have been fined $105,000 for selling an unauthorized pesticide to peach farmers.

As reported by the New Farm Press, Gar Tootelian Inc, and Britz-Simplot Grower Solutions LLC, were charged $60,000 and $45,000, respectively, for selling pesticide Comite in Fresno and Tulare counties. Gar Tootelian was charged with the practice from 2008 through 2010, Britz-Simplot from 2009 through 2010.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of Comite on peaches back in 1996 for being a potential carcinogen to fish and amphibians.


Beekeepers petition EPA over pesticide

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Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images

While the war being waged over strawberry fumigant methyl iodide that we’ve been following came to an abrupt end, a new pesticide debate is heating up.

Just this week, beekeepers and environmentalists came together and filed a petition with more than one million signatures asking the EPA to ban the use of pesticide clothianidin. Petitioners claim harm the bees, often lethally.

"The future of beekeeping faces numerous threats, including from clothianidin, and we need to take steps to protect pollinators and the livelihood of beekeepers," said co-petitioner Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co in a press release.

As reported in Business Week, the beekeepers say that the pesticide cripples the immune system of the bees, ultimately leading to colony collapse disorder, where all adult honeybees die or simply disappear.


Company ends U.S. distribution of controversial strawberry pesticide

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Mark J. Terrill/AP

Just as the war over strawberry pesticide methyl iodide (also known as “Midas”) that we've been following was really heating up, it’s ended in the most abrupt fashion. As reported by MSNBC, Japanese manufacturer Arysta LifeScience announced this week that they’ve stopped all sales, marketing and production of the product in America.

"It's a financial decision," said a spokesperson for the company to the Grower. "It will allow Arysta to refocus its resources on other business."

The debate over the health risks of methyl iodide had reached a fever pitch recently, as the Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of California Gov. Jerry Brown to reconsider using it over claims that it causes cancer.

"Arysta saw the writing on the wall and decided to pre-emptively pull cancer-causing methyl iodide off the shelves," said Paul Towers, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the state's decision to authorize its use to the Ventura County Star. "This is an opportunity for California's leaders to help our farmers transition away from the use of fumigants.”