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PANNA Joins Effort to Block Worcester Drenching

PRESS RELEASE UPDATED FROM 9/11: To take action, please read that post!

Groups Oppose Drenching of Pesticide in Massachusetts

Banned in Europe, Imidacloprid Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The national public awareness group known as Pesticide Action Network North America today joined The SafeLawns Foundation and the Toxics Action Center in calling on the insect-ravaged community of Worcester, Mass., to halt a government proposal to drench thousands of acres with a controversial pesticide that is linked with colony collapse disorder in bees.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16 the Pesticide Board Subcommittee of Massachusetts will consider whether or not to spread more than a million gallons of a synthetic nicotine known as imidacloprid to combat the impact of the Asian longhorn beetle in Worcester. While effective in controlling the invasive beetle that has ravaged stands of hardwood forests, imidacloprid has been banned as a soil drench in several nations including France and Germany due to its impact on honey bees. Just this week, in one of the most comprehensive studies ever commissioned about imidacloprid, scientists recommended that Great Britain also ban the chemical compound, which is also lethal to aquatic life, earthworms and birds.

“Certainly the Asian longhorn beetle is a devastating problem and no easy answers exist. Drenching your soil with this toxin, however, is most certainly not the solution,” said Paul Tukey, founder of The SafeLawns Foundation. “It’s imperative that this Worcester proposal — which calls for three times the EPA recommended amount of imidacloprid to be applied — be declined. The impacts on bees, the soils and the watershed of that region could be devastating.”

The SafeLawns Foundation, of Washington, D.C., and the Toxics Action Center, based in Boston, plan to rally other environmental organizations in the coming days. The recent study out of Great Britain that links imidacloprid to colony collapse disorder, said Tukey, creates an even great sense of urgency. Colony Collapse Disorder, by some estimates, has killed nearly a third of the nation’s honeybee population since 2006.

“The evidence about imidacloprid’s negative impacts have been out there for quite some time, but the U.S. has by and large chosen to ignore it,” said Tukey. “With Britain, our closest ally, issuing this report this week, I don’t see how we can turn our backs any longer.”

“This is the most comprehensive review of the scientific evidence yet and it has revealed the disturbing amount damage these poisons can cause,” said Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife, the non-profit organization that commissioned the British study.

A safer and cost-effective technique to combat the Asian longhorn beetle, said Tukey, involves injecting affected trees. That reduces the amount of toxin used and generally contains any poisons to within the tree. When applied as a soil drench, the material can seep into surface and groundwater, or be taken up directly by birds, pets and humans.

“Soil-drenching to kill these beetles is like using a fire hose when really all you need is a small syringe,” said Meredith Lee, Community Organizer, for Toxics Action Center. “The pesticide that is proposed to use has been linked to reproductive problems, is highly toxic to bees and will threaten groundwater in Worcester. We need to keep it out of the environment as much as possible.”

PRESS RELEASE UPDATED FROM 9/11: To take action, please read that post!

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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