The pesticide industry’s latest “we're on your side” PR campaign is in high gear this summer — on the web, in ads, lobbying. Their cross-country road show features people dressed as rats, West Nile-spreading mosquitoes, Lyme disease-carrying ticks and community-destroying weeds that, were it not for pesticides, threaten to overrun our homes, schools and Little League fields.
“I’ve heard that we don’t need to use pesticides, is that true?” False, says the “Facts” page on the Debug the Myths website. Herbicides, for example, are essential to fight allergies and asthma, cracks in roads and sidewalks, and prevent overgrown bus stops. And they're serious. These alarms are delivered by RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), they’re attracting attention and they’re blocking legislation.
Kiera Butler of Mother Jones visited this “traveling circus of … pest-management products” at an Orchard Supply Hardware parking lot in Modesto, CA, fresh from its East Coast run. Kiera met a friendly giant tick, had her picture taken with a huge threatening baseball pushed by fire ants, tried to find RISE’s giant green RV but only got to see their environmentally-correct Prius. Then she asked Karen Reardon, RISE spokesperson, about recent bans on pesticides at schools in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.
"There are health and safety implications of eliminating a tool from the tool box," [Karen] said. But what about the negative health effects associated with pesticide exposure? I asked. Had she heard about the recent study linking prenatal pesticide exposure with lower IQs in kids? "Even the researchers on that study say that no conclusions can be drawn from it," she said. And besides, "pesticides are the most widely studied substances in the world, besides pharmaceuticals."
Am I the only one who doesn't find this comparison particularly reassuring?
At the tour’s stop in Sacramento, RISE sponsored the River Cats minor league baseball game. The Cats lost to the Fresno Grizzlies — but as Asael Sala of Pesticide Watch observes, the lobbying group had already won a more important contest. Last month in the state Senate they helped defeat a bill supported by Pesticide Action Network, Californians for Pesticide Reform and many others that would have strengthened ecological pest management in schools.