The California Environmental Health Initiative


Science at the intersection of human health and agriculture.


Litigation challenging the statewide spray program

On Jan. 22, 2015, California Environmental Health Initiative, 10 other organizations, and the city of Berkeley sued the California Department of Food and Agriculture over the agency’s approval of its statewide “pest management” plan that allows pesticide spraying on schools, organic farms and residential yards, including aerial spraying over homes in rural areas.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture approved the program despite tens of thousands of public comment letters calling for a less toxic approach that would protect the vitality and resilience of the state’s food system and the economic interests of organic farmers.

Under the plan, the state can use, without any additional environmental review, a list of 79 pesticides that cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm and are highly toxic to bees and other pollinators, fish, birds, and other wildlife.

The plan allows these dangerous chemicals to be used anywhere in the state, any time into the indefinite future, without an option for affected communities to stop the spray.  The state can also approve new pesticide treatments and treatment sites behind closed doors without public scrutiny or notice.

The Superior Court ruled in our favor in early 2018 and barred CDFA from using pesticides in the program. CDFA has appealed the ruling, and the Superior Court order was put on hold pending the appeal hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.

Chronology of documents

Learn more about the PEIR here.

Read our comment letter on the Draft PEIR here. It describes a proposed ecological-

agriculture alternative to CDFA’s pesticide-centered management approach

Read our original court filing here.  Read the arguments for our May 2015

motion for preliminary injunction here.

Read our press release on our win in this lawsuit here, and the judge’s final Feb. 22, 2018 order ending the program and the injunction stripping CDFA of the authority to

spray pesticides here

The judge’s Jan. 8 consolidated ruling laying out the rationale for his decision is here, but note that the injunction was updated in in the Feb. 22 order above to specifically bar CDFA’s use of chemicals. 

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