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Pesticide Debate Crowds New Hampshire Hearing

Advocates for and against a bill to study a potential pesticide ban lobby for testifying position prior to the start of Thursday's meeting in the New Hampshire legislative chambers.

Advocates for and against a bill to study a potential pesticide ban lobby for testifying position prior to the start of Thursday’s meeting in the New Hampshire legislative chambers.

Representative Suzanne Smith introduces bill HB 1456 to her colleagues in the New Hampshire legislature.

Representative Suzanne Smith introduces bill HB 1456 to her colleagues in the New Hampshire legislature.

CONCORD, NH. — Defiantly declaring “we are the true environmentalists” to the nodding approval of dozens of lawn care professionals, the co-founder of the Lawn Dawg company help lead of chorus of pleas not to study the issue of banning pesticides in New Hampshire.

With homeowners, organic lawn care professionals, doctors and other advocates supporting Bill 1456 that would study the effect of a pesticide ban on public and private property, Jim Campanella was among many lawn chemical applicators who told New Hampshire legislators they saw no problems with current laws regarding pesticides.

In a hearing that had been scheduled for an hour, the three-plus hours in the tightly packed room — with lines out the door — were filled with contentious and impassioned arguments on both sides. Time and time again, the 16 councilors in attendance asked, “Why not at least study this issue?”

It is unclear at this hour on when the committee will vote on the issue, but the bill’s sponsor, Suzanne Smith, could clearly see she had opened up a can of worms.

“This is my first bill and who knew it would turn out like this?” she said, after appearing on New Hampshire Public Television’s program New Hampshire Outlook with yours truly — which will air Friday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14 at 9:30 a.m. and Monday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. “I just don’t understand why the chemical industry is so afraid to even have a study about the issue. If they don’t have anything to hide, why wouldn’t they welcome a study to clear the air.”

The issue, of course, is that the chemical industry fears loss of revenue and that the study would ultimately lead to an outright ban on pesticides. Many of us who spoke in favor of the bill do favor a ban, but only on a specific group of pesticides — what the Canadian government refers to as “cosmetic” pesticides used to kill dandelions, plantain, crabgrass and other weeds in the lawn and garden.

Here is a snapshot of two of the issues raised:

THE SCOPE OF THE BAN — Many pesticide applicators brought up the infestations of bed bugs that have been making headlines across the U.S. They also talked about West Nile Virus and other illnesses associated with mosquitoes, or infestations of termites. The reality is that the intent of Smith’s bill is simply to ban lawn and garden pesticides, much like what Canada has already done in most cases. Exceptions to the bans are routinely made in Canada in the case of severe infestations.

EPA APPROVAL — Many of the applicators spoke about EPA approval of their products, suggesting that such approval by the Environmental Protection Agency was proof that their products are safe when used as directed. The reality is that EPA approval is not a finding of safety, but rather it is a risk-benefit analysis of health and environmental risks weighed against economic benefits. In most cases, those risks and benefits are borne by differing members of society. In other words, the chemical companies and applicators get the money and the homeowners, ponds, lakes, rivers, oceans etc. bear the risks.

I’ll have more on this tomorrow. Stay tuned . . .

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.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • Kathleen

    Perfectly stated Paul!

    I want to congratulate you on your work and efforts on this. I wonder if Mr. Campinella has any idea how ignorant he sounds when he states that the chemical people are the true environmentalists. When the opposition quotes you directly to make their own point it doesn’t say much for your own level of intelligence. Mr. Campinella may actually be personally responsible for losing the battle for the chemical industry. I’m assuming he had trouble sleeping at night to begin with. When his industry and associates begin to blame him for personally screwing up any defense they may have possibly had in the first place I would say he will be a very tired man.

  • maryNH

    Lawn Dawg likes to call itself the environmentally friendly lawn care company, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s all green-washing. First off, the company’s “organic” lawn fertilizer is derived from sewage sludge. And last time I checked, Lawn Dawg applied more lawn pesticides like 2,4-D than just about any other company in New Hampshire. “True environmentalist?” Does he really think anyone believes that? Apparently people do, because the company still has customers. But I applaud you for having the will to go to New Hampshire and make your voice heard against this sort of insidious propaganda.

    • Live Free or Die in NH

      Seems Like MaryNH has a biased opinion and talks like she actually has statistical data to back her Lawn Dawg statments.
      Lawn Dawg being the second largest lawn care provider in NH would obviously be applying more fertilizers and products than others based on it customer base alone.
      By the way waste water sludge is use in Agriculture as a means of fertility. So if it is good for Crops, then I am sure it is safe for Turf! The product MaryNH is referring to is Sanitized, Deodorized, and then transformed into pellet form. One of biggest concerns should be over the amount of Phosphorous being applied per application. I know for a fact that Lawn Dawg applies 0% – 1% maximum amount of Phosphorous per 1000 sq/ft per treatment. Can other lawn care compaines say that? Also check the analysis on most true organic products and you will see there is typically an average of 5% or higher Phosphorous per 1000 s/ft.
      The debate should not be over pesticides and how bad they are for the environment, but over who can apply them. I know I would prefer to have any chemical service done by a licensed person versus someone that is not. The State of NH, Division of Pesticide Control does an excellent job of doing site inspections as well as field inspections. This insures that Applicator companies operate safely and within the guidelines in place to protect the environment. The propaganda is streaming in from these so called Organic Loyalists that just wish to impose thier will and take away tax payers rights to decide on what services they would like the freedom to purchase. NH Spoke and it is still the Live Free or Die State!

      • Paul Tukey

        In reference to the statement from the “Live Free or Die” chemical advocate, I’d point out that few organic fertilizers for lawns contain more than 1 or 2 percent phosphorus, but he (or she) is accurate in the assessment that lawns do not need more phosphorus.

        And while I agree that the nation would be far better off if pesticides were applied by only licensed applicators, the statement that the “Division of Pesticide Control does an excellent job of doing site inspections” is quite misleading. The department may, in fact, do a good job on inspections of sites it visits. But the underfunded department, suffering from budget cuts like the rest of the state, only has two people conducting site visits across the entire state. That doesn’t insure anything.

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  • thelawnblog

    I have been following the pesticide legislation in NH for a long time. Having worked in the lawn-care industry for quite a while in the past and just having recently left to pursue other opportunities I find it interesting that most of the folks talking have not really stepped foot on a lawn in a very long time. I know personaly that Mr. Campanella was recently the president of PLANET and I’m sure that he has not applied any of the products he has asked his employees to apply for a very long time. His major concern if for the expansion of his enterprise and the health of his employees and customers is secondary. I would challenge Mr. Campanella to try to evaluate some of the truly 100% organic options in the marketplace and see how they stack up to his Earthcare program. I am sure he would be pleasantly surprised.

  • jimmy

    The Lawn Blog seems to be shooting straight from his heart.

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