$1 million Award In Pesticide Contamination Suit Raises Concerns

A jury has awarded $1 million to an organic farm in Santa Cruz, CA, whose edible herbs were contaminated by organophosphate pesticides that the grower contended were sprayed on nearby farmlands. But the award raises troubling questions for the future use of organophosphates, says the supplier of the pesticides, Western Farm Service, because even after it had ceased spraying, residues were found on the organic herbs. The company, which said it is likely to appeal last week’s verdict by a Santa Cruz County Superior Court jury, said it followed standards on the product labels and county agricultural permits when applying the chemicals.

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Assessing the uses and risks of pesticides should be the job of federal, state, and county regulators, not local juries, Western Farm Service said in a statement. It addition, it said the verdict “raises concerns about (the) future use of organophosphates in California,” because there was no evidence of spray drift from the neighboring field where conventionally grown Brussels sprouts were treated.

“Although the evidence showed no basis to conclude that the applicator caused spray drift to leave the target site, movement form post application dust raised by the strong local coastal winds, from coastal fogs which accumulated the evaporated organophosphates, and to a certain extent regional background levels caused by area wide growers, all contributed to this inadvertent residue problem,” Western Farm Service stated in a press release.

Click here to read the press release from Western Farm Service.