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Daily News Blog

04
Apr

Pesticide Industry Lobbying Congress with Misinformation to Prohibit Local Pesticide Policies

(Beyond Pesticides, April 4, 2023) The pesticide industry focused the entirety of their “legislative day” late last month on an effort to roll back local democratic decision making and implement federal pesticide preemption of local governance in the Farm Bill. “Something that most people don’t know,” J.D. Darr, the director of legislative and regulatory affairs for the National Pest Management Association told Pest Control Technology (PCT), “is that the Ag Committee does have oversight of a small sliver of FIFRA. So, the Farm Bill is a really good vehicle for us making regulatory decisions surrounding pesticide.” Contrary to Mr. Darr’s statement, pesticide reform advocates are well aware of the threat the pesticide industry poses in the 2023 Farm Bill, having defeated a similar effort in 2018, and repeated attempts to implement pesticide preemption in the preemption-free states of Maine and Maryland. Reform advocates are pushing Congress to include in the Farm Bill diametrically opposing language already contained with Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act.

The pesticide industry’s lobby day attempted to soften the industry’ image in Congress by including a range of non-pesticide related issues, such as a “friendly political discussion” between conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg and NPR reporter Mara Liasson, sponsored by multinational chemical company FMC. Other sessions were sponsored by major pesticide producers, such as BASF and Corteva (formerly called DowDuPont).

In an interview with PCT, Mr. Darr forwarded a range of unfounded myths about the viability of local authority. It is critically important that the public and members of Congress understand the true facts behind the industry’s dangerous falsehoods. There is nothing democratic, sustainable, or healthy about an effort that is focused squarely on creating conditions to apply ever more toxic chemicals in local communities. Here are the major falsehoods pesticide corporations are trying to sell U.S. politicians on:

Myth: Federal and state law provide adequate protections from toxic pesticides. (Mr. Darr says state agencies are “adequately reviewing pesticides.”)

Fact: Deficiencies in the federal pesticide regulatory process are well documented and date back decades. Problems with inert ingredient disclosure, failure to regulate endocrine (hormone) disruptors, the frequency of ‘conditionally’ registered pesticides without important health and safety information, assumption of complete label compliance, and lack of consideration for sensitive and vulnerable populations are merely a few of the grave insufficiencies within EPA’s pesticide registration process. These concerns, and tendency for state regulatory agencies to merely rubber stamp EPA approvals provides a role for local communities to play in protecting their resident’s health and environment.

Myth: Local officials do not have the expertise to restrict pesticides. (Mr. Darr says at the local level, staffing and resources are “kind of lacking.”)

Fact: This claim flies in the face of common sense. Local officials are in fact likely the most knowledgeable individuals in a community regarding sensitive sites may need protections from toxic pesticides. In the Wisconsin v Mortier Supreme Court decision that established the rights of localities, the justices referenced the importance of local rights over local factors, like climate, population, geography and water supply. Local officials should have the right to protect their most vulnerable community members like children and the elderly from toxic exposure. They know the playgrounds, local swimming holes and drinking water sources, the conservation areas with vulnerable species, and other sensitive or unique local environments better than state and federal officials. They are also savvier than that claim gives them credit for –scientific resources are readily available for local lawmakers wishing to read up on the dangers and alternatives to pesticides. In any case, Beyond Pesticides knows of no local policies where lawmakers did not consult or hear testimony from experts on both sides of an issue when considering pesticide restrictions. This issue is well studied, and unfortunately the argument is merely an attempt to stifle democratic conversations in local communities. 

Myth: Allowing local authority will hurt local pesticide or lawn care businesses. (Mr. Darr says “our member companies are forced to deal with a bit of regulatory uncertainty…”)

Fact: While there hasn’t been an extensive amount of scientific study specifically on local pesticide reform policies, the research we do have does not bare out that argument.

A peer-reviewed study conducted on the implementation of Toronto, Canada’s pesticide law (a policy similar to those passed in Maine and Maryland localities) found that lawn care company businesses actually increased by 30% during the implementation phase of their ordinance, as pesticide use decreased among both homeowners and lawn care companies. Again, this is common sense, as folks uneasy about using what may be perceived as ‘new’ natural land care methods will look to established experts or new green companies to manage their landscapes. Rather than hurt local companies, these laws incentivize a new green, sustainable industry in communities.

Myth: Local authority will create a patchwork of laws that would be too difficult for land care officials to follow. (Mr. Darr says NPMA companies also have to deal with “…just a patchwork of localities…which is really burdensome”)

Fact: This has not been borne out in any states where there is no pesticide preemption. We have present, existing examples that disprove this argument. In both Maine and Maryland the laws passed to date are nearly identical in restricting the use of all but organic and minimum risk pesticide use. There is no evidence for this ‘patchwork theory’ as communities generally look towards their neighbors for similar or consistent policy language (very few local communities want to be first out the gate).

Even if it were the case, local businesses navigate these issues all the time– they work through local zoning, smoking and other health codes, water use limits, or other restrictions aimed at addressing unique local situations. Part of running a business is understanding and adapting to local laws.  

Local leaders say that local communities must have the right to protect the health of their residents and local ecology from the hazards associated with toxic pesticides. Large multinational companies should have no say in this process but are working to influence lawmakers to bully local communities into permitting the use of toxic products that go against their community’s values. Help Beyond Pesticides and our allies push back against inclusion of this regressive, anti-democratic language in the Farm Bill by taking action and sending a letter to your members of Congress today.  

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: PCT(1), PCT(2)

 

 

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One Response to “Pesticide Industry Lobbying Congress with Misinformation to Prohibit Local Pesticide Policies”

  1. 1
    Moshe Koval Says:

    Please do not take away the ability of local governments to regulate pesticide use and sales. Local governments need this jurisdiction to help with the biodiversity crisis, especially the current “insect apocalypse”, which is in large part due to overuse of pesticides (Wagner et Al., 2021) https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2023989118

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