Regarding "How the Bugs Finally Won," by David DeVoss (Sept. 20): Although it is a splendid advance that farmers in the Imperial Valley have decided to give up indiscriminate pesticide use because it is an uneconomic way to combat insect infestation, consumers must not forget that another reason pesticides are being phased out in California is that the chemicals can be deadly to humans as well as to bugs.
As chairwoman for the State Water Resources Control Board from 1979 to 1982, I was present as a participant in another battle--in the halls of the California Legislature--not between bugs and chemicals but between agribusiness and chemical companies, on the one hand, and consumers, farm workers, environmentalists and the State Board on the other. In 1982, the battle against indiscriminate pesticide use was won by agribusiness and the chemical companies.
But it is evident that the long war is now being won by the concerned consumer who is voting with his or her pocketbook in ever-increasing numbers, purchasing fruits and vegetables from markets that offer produce guaranteed to be free of dangerous residual levels of pesticides and heavy metals. Progressive California farmers are taking note of this consumer trend, particularly because of a flood of produce that is coming into California from other, less well-regulated states and from foreign countries. I am convinced that if California can become as well-known for the safety of its produce as it once was for cosmetic perfection, agriculture can remain the No. 1 industry in California and be one of which we can all be proud.