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.
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.