(Beyond Pesticides, February 19, 2014) Over 30 environmental and consumer groups in New York are protesting new language in the state’s proposed budget that strips away the requirement that commercial pesticide applicators report where pesticides are used, what kind of pesticides they use and how much. The new reporting regulation will require that sales are recorded at the register, instead of where they are applied, eroding the public’s right-to-know.
The law has allowed the public access to summary pesticide use information at the zip code level, and granted researchers access to confidential pesticide use for analysis. However, the proposed rules, written into the state’s Executive Budget proposal, dramatically restructures the state’s Pesticide Sales and Use Reporting Law, stipulating that the annual pesticide reporting summary release detailed sales – not use – data by county. Opponents of the change say that where things are sold are not necessarily where they are used. The inability to identify where pesticides are used in the state will undercut the ability to track associated environmental and health effects.
“It will impede the public’s ability to learn about toxic chemical uses where they work, live and play,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York.
According to an open letter to New York’s legislative leaders, which cites acute and chronic health impacts associated with pesticide exposures, “It is imperative that the Legislature reject the proposed changes and affirm its commitment to assuring that New Yorkers have access to data about the pesticides used in their communities. In the age of open access to information, eliminating pesticide use reporting and substituting it for sales data on a county-by-county basis is grossly inadequate and represents a significant step back in the right-to-know principle that people expect.”
Further the letter states, “The impetus for this important reporting law came from the breast cancer organizations whose primary concern was gaining greater knowledge of correlating exposure and incidence of disease. This concern has not diminished over the years, but rather has increased.” The data that New York’s pesticide reporting provides is used by medical researchers and public health advocates “to identify areas of excessive pesticide use and to promote sound public policies to protect children’s health and the environment at the local, state, and national level.”
Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said at a budget hearing last month that the intent is to make the data more usable and accessible.
The regulation requiring pesticide reporting was passed in 1996 as a means to provide researchers with a way to explore the connection between pesticide use and disease. Currently, the regulation states, “that all commercial applicators maintain pesticide use records for each pesticide application containing the EPA registration number, product name, quantity of each pesticide used, date applied, location of application by address (including five-digit zip code) and corresponding records of the dosage rates, methods of application and target organisms for each pesticide application. These records must be maintained on an annual basis and retained for a period of at least three years. They must be available for inspection upon request by the Department.”
Pesticide use data is crucial to studying and identifying human and environmental impacts pesticide use is associated with. Data is used to help understand and identify incidence of disease and disease clusters, as well as monitor and protect water quality and food resources.
Several states are experiencing industry supported campaigns to weaken their pesticide laws, including those that direct pesticide reporting and notification. In Alaska, for instance, a new law would allow state agencies to spray pesticides on state land without having the application subject to public comment. The new regulation replaces the former transparent process with one that takes away the public right to know and comment. California, the first state to require pesticide reporting, has the nation’s most comprehensive pesticide reporting system which covers reporting requirements for pesticide applications to parks, golf courses, cemeteries, rangeland, pastures, and along roadside and railroad rights-of-way. The state also has a surveillance program that requires physicians to report any known or suspected illness caused by a pesticide exposure. Currently, Maryland is considering a bill to aggregate existing pesticide records on volume and use pattern data in a publicly accessible form.
In 2009, U.S. Department of Agriculture reinstated its pesticide reporting system after widespread criticism from environmental and agricultural groups, and exporters. This system, known as the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), tracks chemical usage on agricultural commodities. This data provides valuable information about which pesticides are used in sensitive watersheds and which affects public and environmental health. The information is also widely used by universities and food industry researchers to help farmers monitor and reduce the amount of pesticides they use.
Continue the conversation at Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, “Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators, and practices,” in Portland, OR April 11-12. The Forum will focus on solutions to the decline of pollinators and other beneficial organisms, strengthening organic agriculture, improving farmworker protection and agricultural justice, and creating healthy buildings, schools and homes. Space is limited so register now.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: Long Island Newsday