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One Step Up . . . One Step Back

If you follow daily worldwide news about pesticides, you know that virtually all days are the same. Story after story tells us that pesticides are causing harm; shill after shill for the chemical industry lines up to say pesticides are perfectly safe.

Take today’s news: Here’s a clip from the corn belt about a woman blatantly sprayed with atrazine:, which includes a predictable comment from Syngenta, the manufacturer of the pesticide, disputing any health claims.

Here’s another clip from the Environmental Working Group’s latest list of the fruits and vegetables that are most likely to be contaminated by pesticides:, followed by a column that flatly denounces any suggestion that organic food offers any benefits, or that pesticides pose any risk:

Out in Utah, all sorts of news items have emerged about a pesticide company that has been cited for more than 3,500 pesticide violations. One of their infractions resulted in the death of two sisters that we have blogged about here a few times since February. Today’s major Utah newspaper published a letter from a reader suggesting that having pesticide regulations in the first place was just another example of government gone amok. Really, there are people who feel this way:

As a lifelong journalist, I really do believe in balanced and fair reporting — though I’m guessing the moles from the chemical industry who read and quote my blog each day would laugh aloud at that statement. Obviously this blog and most of my writing for the past 15 years has had a strong anti-pesticide bias that is only going stronger by the minute.

And my views against pesticides don’t get stronger because the pesticides are getting worse; I actually believe it’s just the opposite. Some members of the industry really are trying to manufacture safer products.

My issue is that, with tens of thousands of largely untested chemicals in our marketplace, the uneducated masses firmly believe that business as usual is just fine. Business, they say, ought to be able to regulate itself, to be trusted to do the right thing.

“Who does this Utah Department of Agriculture and Food think it is, claiming 3,500 violations by this pest control company?,” writes Steve Gilbert of Salt Lake City. “Just more government interference in local businesses. I am counting on patriotic Utah legislators to disband this department in the next session and use the savings for a tax cut. We need to take our country back, back to a time before all this socialistic regulation.”

Just this morning I awoke to read a column published in one of the nation’s leading trade magazines for the horticulture industry. The central question of the article is the central question of my professional life: Will Canada’s bans on cosmetic pesticides take hold in the United States? I spend virtually all my non-family time trying to make that happen, just as the folks at the Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment use their days to make sure Canada’s lawn care politics don’t come anywhere near here.

I publish studies that indicate pesticides impact everything from to ADHD and autism, to cancer and neurological disorders. The pesticide industry spends its days feeding quotes like this to media: “Because sidewalks and medians are so overrun with weeds (in Canada), fire rescue departments are having a hard time finding fire hydrants,” says Karen Reardon, director of communication for the Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment.

Overgrown fire hydrants? Really? I’d like to see the photos on that one. I’ve visited six Canadian provinces since January — including four with pesticide bans already in place — and the hydrants are all in plain view. Canadians, by and large, take far better care of their landscapes than do Americans, even without the availability of many synthetic weed killers in almost 80 percent of the nation.

If I’m truthful, I can tell you that I’m almost smug in my belief that these Canadian pesticide bans will come to the U.S. These desperate quotes by Karen Reardon only serve to prove my point. I do have to admit, though, that the Steve Gilberts of the world make me shudder. In our everybody-has-a-blog-and-opinion world of “balanced” journalism that I love, I know the job of eliminating pesticides will never be easy.

It’s just one step up, one step back every single day. But no one said our side couldn’t take faster, longer steps.

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
  • Affordable Lawncare and Landscape

    I think the government is getting too big, but there do need to be regulations on pesticide use. That company was an embarrassment. I will never feel or say that I feel glad for the terrible deaths of those little girls, but I will say I am elated that the rodents behind their deaths is caught and exposed.

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