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Daily News Archive

Pesticide Tracking Law Stalls in Oregon
(Beyond Pesticides, August 11, 2003)
A pesticide tracking law, approved overwhelmingly by Oregon lawmakers four years ago, has since been put on hold and recently refused the funding it needs to get going. Jim Myron, natural resource advisor to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, said HB 3602, which would track specific pesticide use in different areas, would hopefully be activated in 2005. "In the meantime, we will do what we can to use this 'time out' period for continued public education and to encourage voluntary reporting of pesticide use," Myron stated in a letter regarding the tracking law.

Environmentalists expressed disappointment with the decision to withhold the $600,000 needed, especially since Kulongoski identified the pesticide tracking issue as a top priority earlier in the year. "We feel the governor has abdicated his leadership on this issue," said Matt Blevins of the Oregon Environmental Council. "He seems to be saying he is not willing to fight for this."

The 1999 law requires farmers, commercial applicators and cities to report to the state which pesticides are used, when, where, for what reasons, and in what amounts. The law does not cover residential pesticide use. The information would be available for researchers at accredited institutions. The public would also have access to the information in a yearly report.

The possibilities this law poses for research would greatly benefit public health. Pesticide poisonings occur everyday. Many of those poisoned never realize the source of their suffering until months or years later. Tracking pesticide use in their areas, and the possibilities of runoff into water or other contamination of the area may greatly assist in diagnosis and treatment of the individual.

However, farmers and the pesticide industry oppose the law, and have managed to help keep the program on hold all these years as a result of their resistance. Paulette Pyle, spokeswoman for a pesticide industry group, said the rules as currently written could require farmers and ranchers to list pesticides used on specific fields. The problem with such specificity, she says, is that it raises the possibility of ecoterrorists obtaining the information and targeting those individuals for acts of vandalism or sabotage."

Unfortunately, Oregon is suffering from pesticide use. In April, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reported presence of pesticides in 60 drinking water wells in Willamette Valley. (See Beyond Pesticides' April 10, 2003 edition of Daily News.) At the time the pollution was reported, researchers' next step was to determine the source of the contamination, and would have benefited greatly from a tracking system.

For more information and resources regarding pesticides in Oregon, or in your own state, see Beyond Pesticides' State Pages.