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New State Bill Would Require Pesticide Disclosure

(Beyond Pesticides, March 5, 2008) The state of Minnesota will this week make a decision on a bill that would create a public database of all pesticides applied in the state. The bill would also require farmers and commercial applicators to notify neighbors before using restricted pesticides that are volatile.

Democratic Rep. Ken Tschumper of La Crescent, author of the bill, Pesticide Right to Know, believes that the public has a right to know what chemicals are being used in their neighborhoods. The bill will require pesticide applicators to give 48 hours advance notification to an area where pesticides will be sprayed, both in urban and rural areas, and what kind of pesticide would be used. The legislation also calls for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to create an Internet database indicating the time and location of pesticide application. Under the measure, pesticide applicators would have to report to the Agriculture Department every 30 days.

“The bill is not that onerous. Pesticide applicators have to keep track of every application of pesticide they do,” Rep. Tschumper said. “All we’re simply saying is that data, that information, needs to be made public.”

Using volatile chemicals such as atrazine, which is widely used in Minnesota and travels great distances with the wind, would require advance notification by the farmer. Spray drift is currently illegal in Minnesota.

“The applicators have to give some sort of advanced notice — like a day or two ahead of time when they’re going to apply these pesticides, so that the public can be aware of that and protect themselves if there is spray drift, for example,” Rep. Tschumper said.
More than 200 pesticides are bought and sold in Minnesota and farmers and other applicators have to keep track of every application. Current laws state that applicators only have to release information when it is requested from state agriculture officials, a medical doctor or veterinarian. The state, however, does not track how or when these chemicals are used.

Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar), who leads a House agriculture funding committee, said he is opposed to the pesticide bill. Rep. Junke says he is concerned the legislation would impinge on the privacy rights of pesticide applicators and farmers. “People are private. We don’t want our information, our name, address, given out to just anyone,” Rep. Juhnke said, adding the information already is available to agriculture officials and health caregivers. “Beyond that, I’m hard pressed to understand why we’d want to do this, other than to appease some anti-chemical activists.”

Farmers opposing the bill say notifying neighbors 48 hours in advance would be too difficult. Some are concerned about their customer data becoming public. “My competitors could go online, find who my customers are and contact them, try to make them deals and sway them away from me,” farmer, Ken Peterson said. “They can find out what mixtures I’m using that work better on certain things, and, you know, it would be like giving up trade secrets.”

This bill has bounced around the state Legislature for years, but Rep. Tschumper says support for it has grown this year. The Environment and Natural Resources Committee is set to take up the bill this week.

Minnesota is not alone in wanting pesticide disclosure and consumer notification. Recently the District of Columbia took up the issue of reforming pesticide law by proposing an amendment that requires licensed pesticide applicators to provide hazard information to potential customers. Beyond Pesticides testified in support of expanding this bill to ensure that people are fully warned before purchasing pest control services or pesticide products. The amendment bill also addressed the issue of inadequately trained commercial applicators. (See Daily News of January 17, 2008.)

Source: Minnesota Public Radio


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