Winds of change

Organic farm in California gets compensation for pesticide drift

Published: Friday 31 October 2008

Organic farm in California gets compensation for pesticide drift

a california court awarded a us $1 million compensation to an organic farm whose culinary herbs were contaminated by pesticides drifting in from a neighbouring farm.

Jacobs Farm, part of Del Cabo farms in Santa Cruz, suffered losses as pesticides destroyed significant portions of its harvests of sage, rosemary, dill and other herbs. In May 2007, Jacobs Farm filed a case against pesticide application company Western Farm Service Inc.

Traces of several organophosphate chemicals--chlorpyrifos, diazinon and dimethoate--were detected in the organic crop in 2006. These pesticides were applied on brussel sprouts, a kind of wild cabbage, in the farms owned by the Western Farm Services. They evaporated and drifted in from the neighbouring farm, aided by fog. us organic food guidelines prohibit their use on organic crops.

Neither the federal nor the state regulations account for the evaporative drift of pesticides or provide any protection to organic farmers. There are rules only to control pesticide drift from aerial spraying. According to Jacobs' attorney Nathan Benjamin, the verdict sends a clear message to industry and regulators that "it is no longer acceptable to apply poisonous chemicals and turn your back on consequences".

Western Farm Services argued they had followed standards on product labels and county agricultural permits while applying the chemicals and that assessment of the use and risk of pesticides should be done by the federal, state and county regulators instead of local juries.

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