Use of Pesticides Continues in City of Malibu Parks

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Malibu City Hall

This story has been updated. Please see editor’s note below.

Ah, spring is in the air. Wildflowers are blooming in city parks, and the city’s Valley Crest subcontractors are out in hazmat suits with backpacks of glyphosate (the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup), spraying areas used by the public. Spraying has been recently observed — and even photographed — at Trancas, Las Flores Creek and Legacy parks. 

When the Valley Crest employee doing the spraying at Las Flores Creek Park was approached, he said the City of Malibu permitted it. He was correct the City of Malibu’s Parks and Recreation Department has an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan that includes not only glyphosate, but several other toxic chemicals.

Stephen C. Frantz, PhD, a pathobiologist residing in the Malibu area, wrote in the LA Progressive last month that after 40 years of producing Roundup, “a treasure trove” of Monsanto’s own research data was exposed in 2015. 

“We now know, through this and other independent peer-reviewed research, that we’ve been misled by industry, university, government scientists and officials who told us that glyphosate did not present an unreasonable risk of adverse effects to humans, animals, or the environment,” he wrote. 

Frantz noted that “glyphosate in its various formulations is responsible for a large variety of cancers and organ failures in humans and other animals … It harms or kills honey bees and monarch butterflies … causes death, mutations, cancer, etc. in amphibians, fish, mice, rats, dogs, pigs, poultry, cattle and many microorganisms and other life forms … and destroys the vegetation on which wildlife depends for food and shelter.”

As a result of these findings, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.” The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment decided glyphosate products must be labeled “cancer causing,” which Monsanto is contesting.

“On occasion, Roundup may be used to control weeds for worker safety and community convenience,” Parks and Recreation Director Bob Stallings told The Malibu Times. “For example, using Roundup at Las Flores Creek Park and the median on PCH reduces the risk of injury to workers operating in close proximity to vehicle traffic or inconveniencing the community by closing a lane.”

He emphasized “the product is not applied if there’s a chance of rain or high winds, in order to prevent the product from carrying outside the targeted area. These are some of the precautions taken to keep the product from spreading to the creek or ocean when applied at Las Flores Creek Park.”

Kian Schulman, co-founder of Poison Free Malibu, wrote in an email to The Malibu Times that, “Our coalition is concerned about the use of toxic pesticides in Malibu parks and playing fields, and is working to get the city IPM policy changed.” 

The coalition consists not only of Poison Free Malibu, but also Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS), America Unites for Kids, The Cornucopia Foundation, Malibu Agricultural Society, Malibu Monarch Project and the Topanga Creek Watershed Committee.

Schulman said she “recently had a productive meeting” with Stallings concerning changing Malibu’s IPM policy.

“Bob and his staff have worked hard to minimize the use of pesticides on Malibu park properties,” Schulman explained. “Malibu’s present policy has a modest pesticide use list, as toxic as it is. He assured me that his intentions are the same as ours — to make Malibu poison free.

“I expressed Malibu citizens’ deep concerns about the use of Roundup, a possible carcinogen, and other toxic chemicals (SpeedZone and Dimension) on the parks’ turf and playground areas. One citizen was very upset to see the spraying of Trancas Park with no signage being used as children played in the background,” she said.  “Given the choice of having a pristine turf full of chemical poisons or one with no poisons or chemicals with a few dandelions here and there, I believe our public would prefer a pesticide free zone.”

Schulman explained that the coalition would “like to see a pesticide free zone on all turf and lawn areas where the public congregates, and a non-chemical soil enrichment program to eliminate unwanted weeds and build a healthy soil.”

The coalition has based their recommendations on successful earth friendly management policies adopted by other communities. 

Residents are encouraged to attend the Tuesday, May 17, Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, which will include a full review of the IPM policy and program, as well as a presentation by Poison Free Malibu. 

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation declared glyphosate as cancer-causing. The story has been updated with correct information.