[09 May/Otago Daily Times] 

California has moved to ban controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos which is widely used to control a range of insects but is blamed for harming brain development in babies after scientists deemed it a toxic air contaminant. Some farmers are backlashing against the decision because they rely on the pesticide to fight pests and crop diseases.  The pesticide is in a class of organophosphates chemically similar to a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany before World War 2. Its heavy use has often left traces in drinking water sources. A 2012 study by the University of California, Berkeley, found that 87% of umbilical-cord blood samples tested from newborn babies contained detectable levels of the pesticide. The ban could take up to two years to take effect. To help farmers make the transition away from chlorpyrifos, California is adding contributing $US5.7 million ($NZ8.6 million) to the development of safer alternatives. While most environmental groups applauded the announcement, Earthjustice said it would continue pushing legislation to ban the chemical because it questions whether the Department of Pesticide Regulation will follow through.