Maine organic farmers criticize repeal of pesticide law

By Ramona du Houx - June 15th, 2011 · 

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association criticized the new law that repealed a 2009 law requiring pesticide applicators to provide advance notice of aerial pesticide applications to those who listed their property on a public registry.

“It is an attack on people’s right to know about pesticides,” said Associate Director Heather Spalding. Maine has one of the highest proportion of Organic and pesticide free farmers in America.

“We believe providing a reasonable notification system helps address concerns Maine people and families have about pesticides,” said Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, who serves as the Democratic lead on the Agriculture Committee. “The registry included over 1,800 registered locations and thousands of people concerned about pesticide use and their exposure.”

The internet-based registry was designed two-years ago to help land managers identify and contact neighbors who wanted advance notice of planned pesticide spraying taking place within 1,320 feet of their properties. It applied to aerial or air carrier pesticide spray technologies.

McCabe added, “The current registry was developed over two years and had bipartisan support. Now, none of these people will be notified once the registry is repealed.”

The Maine Board of Pesticides Control confirmed more than a decade ago that pesticide spray drift contamination from aerial applications on blueberry fields can reach up to 1,500 feet. Pesticides can cause birth defects, cancer, asthma, developmental disabilities, and even death.

“We worked in good faith to try to broker a compromise that would balance the needs of farmers and their neighbors during the last session,” said Rep. Andy O’Brien, D-Lincolnville, who helped broker the deal that led to the registry. “Many stakeholders came together to reach a compromise to create a simple and fair system that this law completely disregards.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that a majority of people in the U.S. have detectable concentrations of multiple pesticide residues in their bodies.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports that 90 percent of all fish, 100 percent of all streams, 33 percent of major aquifers, and 50 percent of shallow wells contain one or more pesticides at detectable levels.

Gov. LePage called the repeal, “another example of good, commonsense regulatory reform.”