The Center for Biological Diversity on Monday called for California regulators to curtail use of a weedkiller popular with San Joaquin Valley farmers.
The environmental advocacy group said commercial use of the weedkiller glyphosate, sold by Monsanto under the brand name Roundup, is concentrated in disadvantaged areas of California.
According to the center, eight counties – Tulare, Fresno, Merced, Madera and Kern counties in the San Joaquin Valley plus Del Norte, Lake and Imperial – account for 54% of the state’s use of glyphosate.
The weedkiller is classified as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and California is on track to add it to the list of cancer-causing chemicals under Proposition 65 rules.
Furthermore, counties where the weedkiller is used most have large Latino populations, “indicating that glyphosate use in California is distributed unequally along both socioeconomic and racial lines,” the group says.
“This is no longer a human health issue, it’s a moral issue,” said Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The group and others – the Center for Environmental Health, El Quinto Sol de America, Californians for Pesticide Reform, the Center for Food Safety, and the Pesticide Action Network – released a report analyzing use of the chemical in California titled Lost in the Mist: How Glyphosate Use Disproportionately Threatens California’s Most Impoverished Counties.
The agricultural industry said the report is misleading.
“The report attempts to imply that the use of this chemical resulted in a health threat to those living in these counties,” said Renee Pinel, president and CEO of Western Plant Health Association in Sacramento. “It should be noted while attempting to make this connection, nowhere in the report do they demonstrate that there has been any exposures to glyphosate.”
Pine noted that the same international organization to call glyphosate a probable carcinogen also “found aloe vera, coffee, bacon, sausage and hot dogs as carcinogenic.”
Monsanto said flatly in a statement, “Glyphosate is not a carcinogen and all labeled uses of glyphosate … are safe for human health.”
Statewide, use of the chemical has grown from about 6.4 million pounds in 2004 to 10.4 million pounds in 2013, according to state figures from the Department of Pesticide Control.
Production agriculture uses the lion’s share: 8.5 million pounds in 2013 vs. 1.9 million pounds for non-agriculture use.
The California Department of Pesticide Control said Monday that even if it gets listed under Prop. 65 as expected, that won’t change how it can be used.
“There’s no new scientific evidence to change the use of glyphosate,” said Charlotte Fadipe, spokeswoman for the department.