He also cited the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s “robust” pesticide residue testing program that gives consumer confidence that their food supply is clean.

“CDFA is not finding very much, and what they do find is way below threshold levels,” Leahy said. “The food supply in this state is incredibly safe, and we need to get the message out that fresh fruits and vegetables are safe and healthy.”

However, DPR is not without its challenges. For years, DPR has focused on protecting human health. This has come via strict testing protocols required for new chemistry registration.

Unfortunately, those protocols have not been as extensive for evaluating pesticide impacts on the environment.

“We need tests today that tell us if we have problems with pesticide use in the environment,” he said. He cited the current controversy over the role neonicotinoids play on honey bee losses.


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This challenge is coming from within a new set of agchem products that are very safe to humans. Leahy said gone are highly persistent products that do not break down quickly in the environment as new chemistry classes. “The new chemistry we are seeing is a vast improvement over what we used to use. It is very safe for people,” he said. Unfortunately, environmental issues are surfacing with these products. 

“It is a challenge to bring a new pesticide to market. It takes a decade and cost up to $250 million,” he said. “We want new innovations, but we do not want to put barriers in the way to slow down the process.”

He reiterated another challenge he cites often: misuse of pesticides by urban dwellers. He said pesticide exposure issues are coming increasingly from urban use.

“We want to make sure we have the tools to keep our houses and businesses free of cockroaches (and other pests), but we do not want to hurt people or the environment in the process.”

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