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Take Action: Pesticide Emergency in Worcester, Mass.

Here is the text of a letter I am circulating throughout Massachusetts. Please paste it to anyone who will listen. See the full press release below:

If you agree with my concerns, please feel free to use the letter as a basis for your own letters to the editors of your local papers, or to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. You can contact him at www.mass.gov/?pageID=gov3utilities&sid=Agov3&U=Agov3_contact_us

As a resident of Maine, but an observer of pesticide issues nationwide, I was alarmed to hear about a pesticide proposal that would have devastating effects for the Worcester area. On Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 9:30 at the Department of Public Health at 250 Washington St. in Boston, the Pesticide Board Subcommittee of Massachusetts will consider whether or not to pour more than a million gallons of a synthetic nicotine across several thousand acres of your soils to combat the asian longhorn beetle. That nicotine, known as imidacloprid, has been banned as a soil drench in several nations including France and Germany due to its impact on honey bees, including colony collapse disorder. Just this week, in the most comprehensive study ever commissioned about imidacloprid, scientists recommended that Great Britain also ban the 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. Safer and cost-effective tree injection techniques, that were developed right here in Massachusetts, have been used across the country to keep this beetle at bay. I strongly urge you to consider this as the alternative. In the meantime, however, you must make your voice heard next Wednesday.

(FULL PRESS RELEASE ISSUED NATIONWIDE AT NOON SEPT. 11)

Groups Oppose Drenching of Pesticide in Massachusetts

Banned in Europe, Imidacloprid Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The SafeLawns Foundation and the Toxics Action Center are 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.

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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