(Beyond Pesticides, February 18, 2011) The Danish government has announced that it has reached an agreement that aims to phase out pesticide use on golf courses throughout the country. The agreement, which was made between the Danish Government, the Danish People’s Party, the Social Democrats, the Socialist People’s Party and the Danish Social-Liberal Party, seeks to replace the present ”Agreement on the golf courses of the future” dating from June 2005. It states that the long-term objective is a phasing-out of the consumption of pesticides on Danish golf courses coupled with increases in education regarding pesticide-neutral care utilizing alternative methods, such as mechanical weed control.
Part of the agreement involves an evaluation of the results achieved so far, to be carried out before the end of 2014, in order to inform efforts to tighten the requirements. The partial aim of the 2005 agreement was that, before the end of 2008, the use of pesticides on golf courses should be reduced to 0.1 kg of active ingredient per hectare (ha). As part of the 2005 agreement, golf courses were to submit their pesticide use data in the form of annual “green accounts” to The Danish Golf Union, which has advocated for stronger environmental practices. The Union’s analysis of these accounts has revealed a 2008 consumption of 0.23 kg/ha, and 0.24 kg/ha for 2009, equivalent to a total consumption on Danish golf courses of 2.5 tonnes of active agent. All parties agreed that this is not satisfactory.
The 2005 agreement was a solely voluntary effort to reduce usage, but under the new agreement, it will be replaced by binding regulations regarding golf organizations’ use of pesticides. The regulations are to be based on the following principles, outlined in the agreement:
1. Golf is an important part of Danish sporting activities; but, for the sake of human health and the environment, the pesticide consumption in the golf organizations must be minimized. Hence, the Minister for the Environment will initiate an external expert evaluation for the purpose of determining the lowest possible level of pesticide consumption on Danish golf courses, still allowing the feasibility of continued operation of the courses.
2. Regulations, subject to which only the appliance of low-risk pesticides shall be allowed on golf courses and other public areas, will be implemented. Risk factors will be determined using a benchmarking system based on the health and environment properties of the individual pesticides.
3. The current partial aim of 0.1 kg active agent per ha will be replaced by the establishment of a new cap scheme for the use of pesticides on golf courses based on the pesticides’ factual strain on health and environment. The ceiling imposed will be determined on the basis of the expert opinion provided subject to clause 1 and will be calculated using the benchmarking system referred to under clause 2. This will urge the golf clubs to apply the pesticides of lowest impact in each individual case. In consideration of the historic reference, the consumption will still be stated in kilos of active agent per ha.
4. In consideration of the consumers, an investigation will be carried out for the purpose of assessing the feasibility of preparing a public statement of the pesticide consumption at the individual courses.
Following these goals, the Danish Minister of the Environment introduced a bill in January 2011 proposing an amendment to the existing chemical law. The bill would authorize subsequent regulations that would impose binding requirements on Danish golf courses with respect to their use of pesticides.
The parties also agreed that it is essential to follow-up on golf course pesticide consumption and continue to monitor usage. In 2011, the Chemical Inspection Service the Danish Environmental Protection Agency will repeat its inspection to determine the extent to which the golf clubs apply pesticides which are restricted, and will refer violators to authorities.
The new regulations will be initiated as an element of Denmark’s implementation of the European Union (EU) framework directive on sustainable application of pesticides (Directive 2009/128/EC). This directive imposes an obligation on EU Member States to ensure that, in consideration of risks and impacts of the use of pesticides on human health and the environment, the use of pesticides shall be minimized or banned in areas used by the general public, including sports grounds and public parks. Member states must implement this directive no later than November 26, 2011.
Golf courses around the world, including many in the United States, tend to hold themselves to a high standard, when it comes to maintaining the thick perfectly manicured and weed free turf on greens and fairways. To attain this standard, golf course superintendents rely on a toxic assortment of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other chemicals. These practices have been linked to numerous diseases in humans including cancer, as well as damage to local wildlife. In recent years, however, golf course managers have begun to work with environmental experts to maintain their greens in ways that are less damaging to the environment and human health.
Many conventional golf course managers argue that synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are necessary to maintain healthy looking grass, and an organic approach is not viable. However, Beyond Pesticides and other environmental and public health groups disagree, maintaining that, instead of relying on large amounts of synthetic chemicals to make turf appear healthy, managers should instead focus on creating healthy soils. Healthy soils create an environment for healthier turf that are less vulnerable to weeds and diseases. In addition, as pesticide use declines, biodiversity increases. This can naturally reduce the populations of various pests. Leading golf courses, such as Bethpage State Park are proving that they can have fast greens and outstanding playing conditions without the massive load of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Beyond Pesticides has served on a steering committee that seeks to develop a collaborative strategy with the golf course industry in an effort to effect change. This group developed the Environmental Principles for Golf Courses in the U.S. Increasingly, players and golf course managers are asking the right questions and looking for answers that result in meaningful reductions in pesticide use. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Lawns and Landscapes and Golf and the Environment project pages.
Source: Danish Golf Union