Access to information can be a powerful thing. The pesticide industry understands this, which must be why they're fighting tooth and nail to block — for the third time — a commonsense law that would require pesticide use reporting in Maryland.
But the people of Maryland are fighting back. A strong coalition has formed around the "Smart on Pesticides" law, which is being considered right now by state legislators. They're making the case that children, communities and the precious Chesapeake Bay will all be better protected if decisionmakers know what pesticides are being used and where. A very simple — and very smart — idea.
The Pesticide Reporting and Information Act (SB 675 and HB 775) would require pesticide users and sellers to make information that they are already required to maintain publicly available. This data would help public health and environmental experts identify "hot spots" and determine which pesticides are putting children’s health and waterways at risk.
Biologists say, for example, that such data would help them address the growing problem of intersex fish in the bay. In some locations between 50-100% of the male bass examined are producing eggs rather than sperm. The scientists told Washington Post reporters that "lack of data on pesticides running into the bay" is keeping them from understanding and effectively addressing the problem. Interesting.
The people of Maryland push back
You'd think such a simple and clearly needed initiative would sail through. Other states, including New York and California, already have similar use reporting rules in place. But according to Ruth Berlin, Director of the Maryland Pesticide Network that coordinates the "Smart on Pesticides" campaign, industry opposition has been "intense."
Here's how Ruth describes the countering grassroots effort in a recent blog on MomsRising.org:
An inspiring coalition has come together in Maryland to help protect kids and families from toxic pesticide pollution throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. Moms and doctors, students and scientists, watermen and environmentalists — we have banded together to push the Maryland legislature for passage of the Pesticide Reporting and Information Act.
And farmers support the law, too. Cleo Braver grows vegetables and herbs near a tributary to the Bay. She told state policymakers that she supports the pesticide reporting law “because I care about the impact of my farming practices on our land, on my family’s and neighbors’ health, and on the health of the Chesapeake Bay and my community.”
The proposed bill in Maryland is the latest salvo in a growing push by families and communities across the country to know more about their food and how it's grown — whether it's GE labeling, farm-to-school programs or stricter notification rules when pesticides are sprayed.
It's a powerful and exciting trend.