Maine Pesticide Summit Demands Action
BRUNSWICK, MAINE — With doctors, scientists, cancer survivors, educators, legislators and concerned citizens gathering for a day of inspiration and organizational strategies, the message of the first Maine Pesticide Summit was loud and clear on Saturday: take action to reduce pesticides in our environment — especially when children are involved.
The public forum, from 9-12:30, featured a panel discussion with representatives from four states who have been successful enacting pesticide policies, ordinances or statewide legislation. The primary focus of the day was on lawn care pesticides — weed killers, insect killers and fungicides — used around homes, public parks and school grounds. Structural and interior pest controls were not part of the agenda.
“Re-education for the professional lawn care community is key,” said Lauren Hughes, whose organization, Grassroots Environmental Education in New York, was instrumental in enacting the historic Child Safe Protection Act of 2010. That bill will phase in a ban on pesticide applications around schools and daycare centers in New York beginning in 2012.
Another panelist, Bill Duesing of Connecticut’s chapter of the Northeast Organic Farmers Association, noted that 550 landscape companies, mostly in the Northeast, have become certified since 1999.
“Organic treatments clearly work very, very well and we have literally thousands of examples,” he said. “The chemical lawn care community will denounce organics, saying it doesn’t work. That’s simply because the chemical lawn care community has not been educated on organic techniques.”
The afternoon session focused on legislative strategies in Maine. With a shift toward Republican control in all branches of Maine politics, the delegates to the Pesticide Summit were hoping for a non-partisan approach when a bill similar to New York’s Child Safe Act is introduced in Maine.
“Protecting children from pesticides should not be a Republican-Democrat issue,” said Marsha Smith.
Hughes noted that when the New York bill finally went to vote in May of this year, it passed nearly unanimously.