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Daily News Blog

04
Dec

Philadelphia, PA Passes Herbicide Ban Bill that Encourages Transition to Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2020) The Philadelphia City Council, yesterday afternoon, passed Bill #200425, known as Healthy Outdoor Public Spaces (HOPS), a sweeping ban of herbicides (weed killers) on its public property that stops short of banning all toxic pesticides, while encouraging the adoption of organic land management. With wide support for broad pesticide restrictions from public health and labor groups, scientists, and land managers, the bill was adopted by a unanimous vote. The effort was spearheaded by Toxic Free Philly, a group of local residents deeply concerned about the impacts of pesticides on health and the environment. While the hearing record and the bill’s language indicates a clear spirit and intent to move Philadelphia’s public spaces to organic practices, advocates cite the importance of public involvement and oversight to ensure their goals are achieved. Beyond Pesticides testified for broad language based on the model it is advancing nationwide, and offered the city council free horticultural services to implement an organic program under the new policy.

“Toxic chemicals, including pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, are not needed to manage landscapes and increasingly local governments are recognizing that neither EPA nor state agencies, and their underlying statutes, provide adequate protection for their community’s health and the environment,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.”

Beyond Pesticides is urging communities to adopt organic land management practices as a critical public health and environmental protection measure in the face of elevated risk factors from chemicals that attack the neurological, immunological, and respiratory system, increasing vulnerability to Covid-19 and other diseases. Because of disproportionate exposure and elevated risk factors for people of color, organic policy is critical to fighting environmental racism.

Organic practices successfully manage land in a cost-effective manner and maintain public expectations around beautiful landscapes, all while protecting health and the environment—particularly the most vulnerable, including children and those with preexisting health conditions.

According to Beyond Pesticides, the importance of organic cannot be overstated in the face of existential threats from the impending climate crisis and biodiversity devastation. Organic practices eliminate petroleum-based pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and manage soil health to maximize sequestration of atmospheric carbon. Scientists have identified carbon sequestration in soil as a critical mitigation measure in the fight against climate change. But to be successful in this approach requires the elimination of all pesticides that are disruptive of the health of the ecosystem. The hazards of neonicotinoid insecticides show the importance of a comprehensive approach. These pesticides are not only associated with decline of bee, butterflies and other essential pollinators, they also runoff and widely contaminate waterways, where they devastate aquatic ecosystems.

The Philadelphia HOPS bill has moved to the Mayor’s office for signature before becoming law.

The bill will: (1) ban toxic herbicide use on public property, except in limited circumstances when public health is at issue, or ecological balance is threatened by invasive species (subject to a waiver process); (2) Strongly encourage the implementation of organic land management practices;  (3) require advance notice of all pesticide use and require annual reporting and recordkeeping. Advocates note the bill could have been strengthened by including comprehensive restrictions on all pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, incorporating a component focused on public education, and strictly defining the makeup of the advisory board tasked with reviewing herbicide waiver applications. 

Beyond Pesticides will continue to work with local advocates and allies to push for future legislation that addresses these concerns. Other communities are taking a clearly comprehensive approach to eliminating all toxic pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides) and synthetic fertilizers. In November, the South Portland, ME City Council amended its pesticide ban ordinance with a provision that eliminates synthetic fertilizers. This change brings the city’s law in close alignment with Beyond Pesticides’ model organic land management policy.

The past decade has seen tremendous interest from local communities wishing to protect their residents from toxic pesticides and contribute to a nationwide and global shift away from petroleum-based chemicals that threatens the future health of ecosystems on which life depends. Beyond Pesticides tracks the progress of the pesticide reform movement through the Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies. The map currently lists nearly 200 communities that have enacted restrictions on hazardous pesticide use. Philadelphia, with a population of 1.5 million people, is now the largest U.S. city to pass a local pesticide law. However, because of Pennsylvania state pesticide preemption, city leaders cannot apply pesticide restrictions to private property. Montgomery County, Maryland (in a state that does not preempt its localities) with a population of just over one million, remains the largest jurisdiction to restrict pesticide use on both public and private property.

If you’re interested in passing an organic land care policy in your local community, reach out to Beyond Pesticides at [email protected] or 202-543-5450.

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2 Responses to “Philadelphia, PA Passes Herbicide Ban Bill that Encourages Transition to Organic”

  1. 1
    Peg Shaw Says:

    Nicely done!

  2. 2
    Manoj Kumar Says:

    The information that you have shared with us through this article about herbicide ban bill that encourages transition to organic will really be helpful in knowing in detail about the herbicide ban. I think the ban will ofcourse encourage transition to an organic approach. Thank you for sharing the information with us through this article.

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