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Dr. Greene to Host California Premiere of A Chemical Reaction


Documentary Explores Lawn Pesticide Safety Issues

SONOMA, CALIF. — As ubiquitous in the United States as lawn mowers and rakes, weed and insect killers are often thought to be as benign as a garden hose. Not so, according to one of the nation’s leading pediatricians featured in a documentary movie set for its California premiere at the Wine Country Film Festival.

“I believe that many of the pesticides in common use today will be proven to be some of the biggest risks to our children’s health,” states Dr. Alan Greene, author of the best-selling book Raising Baby Green.

Greene, the founder of the most visited medical web site known as, will be on hand to host the critically acclaimed, yet controversial film A Chemical Reaction. The screening is set for Sunday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. at the Napa River Inn in Sonoma.

For Greene, a father of four, the pesticide issue hit home when his wife, Cheryl, was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer several years ago. Researching causes, Dr. Greene traced the likely origin to pesticides used on her family raisin farm in California’s Central Valley. Since that time, he’s been an outspoken advocate of organic food and a reduction in pesticides, including weed and insect killers and fungicides used on home lawns, golf courses and farm fields

“The thing to remember,” he states in the film, “is that these products are designed to kill.”

A Chemical Reaction centers around another physician in Canada who reached the same conclusions a quarter century ago. Dr. June Irwin was derided as “crazy” when she first brought her concerns about lawn and garden pesticides to a municipal meeting in 1985. But when her town of Hudson, Quebec, banned the lawn care giant then known as ChemLawn from applying its products within town borders, a chain of high-profile court cases culminated in the Canadian Supreme Court in 2001.

Invoking a better-safe-than sorry approach to environmental law known as “the precautionary principle,” the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hudson in a landmark 9-0 decision. The world’s first lawn chemical ban has since spread to several other Canadian provinces. Hudson’s victory, however, caused the U.S. lawn chemical industry to hire lobbyists to go state-by-state to pass “preemption laws” that prohibit local municipalities from banning pesticides. In 41 of 50 states — including California — the lobbyists were successful.

“The chemical industry goes to great lengths to show up everywhere to state that its products are safe, that they’re tested,” said Elizabeth Martin-Craig, an activist for the California group that is featured in the film. “We have heard from hundreds of people who have been poisoned by these products. They are absolutely not safe.”

A year ago California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma tried to emulate Dr. Irwin by sponsoring the bill AB 977 to return control of pesticide use to local municipalities. Under intense pressure from pesticide lobbyists, Ma’s bill failed.

“Here in the U.S. we have the opposite of the precautionary principle,” states Ma, the majority whip of the California Assembly. She is also featured prominently in the film that has drawn the ire of the chemical lawn care industry, which is estimated to produce more than $40 billion in revenues nationwide.

“When you take on this industry, you are facing almost bottomless pocketbooks,” states Karl Tupper in a scene from A Chemical Reaction. He is a San Francisco-based staff scientist for the Pesticide Action Network of North America, which regularly disseminates information about the dangers associated with products such as weed ’n feed and lawn insect killers.

“The enormity of what we don’t know about these products calls for making thoughtful choices, for invoking the precautionary principle here,” said Dr. Greene, who will attend the premiere with his wife Cheryl, who is fully recovered. “We need to listen to this movie’s call to be wise parents now, rather than waiting for science to answer all these questions.”

The Wine Country Film Festival dates are Sept 17 – 20 in venues in Sonoma Valley and Sept 24 – 27 in venues in downtown Napa. Visit for a complete listing of films and times. To learn more about A Chemical Reaction, visit

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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