Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signaled a new direction for California agriculture with the appointment of Brian Leahy as the state’s chief pesticide regulator.
Leahy, a former conventional-turned-organic rice farmer, takes the helm of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) at a key moment: the agency is embroiled in controversy over its decision to approve the cancer-causing pesticide methyl iodide despite strong scientific opposition to the chemical.
Leahy assumes leadership of the embattled agency after former director Mary-Ann Warmerdam resigned in order to take a position at The Clorox Company last spring. Warmerdam stands accused of a taking a “mix-and-match” approach with methyl iodide data, resulting in litigation against DPR and pesticide-maker Arysta on behalf of PAN, United Farm Workers and other organizations.
Regardless of the results of litigation, a broad coalition — including scientists, farmers, farmworkers and rural residents — is urging Director Leahy to make action on methyl iodide his first priority when he officially assumes his new role later this month.
A call for visionary leadership
Just before Governor Jerry Brown took office last year, PAN and the statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform issued a platform outlining a clear path towards a vibrant, healthy agricultural economy in California.
PAN Organizing & Media Director Paul Towers recently spoke with reporters and urged Director Leahy to continue along that path:
Director Leahy brings a much needed new perspective to DPR, rooted in his experiences as a successful farmer, as a nonprofit manager, and as a public servant. He has a unique opportunity early in his term to prioritize making agriculture increasingly safe, healthy and climate-friendly.