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Daily News Archives
From February 28, 2005

Fighting Back: Communities Seek to Stop Chemical Lawn Care Industry -- Update
(Beyond Pesticides, February 28, 2005)
Beyond Pesticides' "Get A Grip" copycat advertisement story on the Scripps Howard News Service ran in a U.S. newspaper for the first time on February 24, 2005 after running earlier in Canada's Globe and Mail in January.

The story, "Lawn care industry in the U.S. Fears pesticide bans will grow," ran in the Detroit News, disclosing the lawn and chemical industry campaign to undercut local community and state campaigns to stop the aesthetic or cosmetic use of toxic pesticides. Since Beyond Pesticides created the mock ad, Project Evergreen (a front group for chemical companies, such as Dow, Syngenta, Scotts, and their trade association Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, RISE) has taken down their "Gloves Are Off" advertisement from their website and removed all reference to the names of their chemical industry supporters.

Project Evergreen plans to launch a consumer public relations campaign to extol the benefits of chemically-treated lawns this Spring. The original industry advertisement and Beyond Pesticides' copycat ad can be found here.

The following is the story that appeared in the Detroit News on Thursday, February 24, 2005.

Lawn care industry in the U.S. fears pesticide bans will grow
Fearing Canada's move to outlaw toxic chemicals, green businesses launch ad campaign to fight back.By Joan Lowy / Scripps Howard News Service

Fearing that a Canadian movement to ban the use of pesticides on lawns will take root in the United States, the lawn-care industry has thrown down the gauntlet -- literally.

"The gloves are off," declares an industry ad running in trade magazines under a picture of masculine-looking leather gardening gloves lying atop a lush green lawn.

"Yes, legislation and regulations have been throwing the green industry some rough punches," the ad says. "And we're about to start fighting back."

The ads are underwritten by Project Evergreen, a trade association formed by pesticide makers, applicators, garden centers and mower manufacturers that plans to launch a national public-relations campaign this spring touting the health and lifestyle benefits of thick, green lawns.

The green industry, as the lawn-products industry calls itself, has reason to worry. Increasing concern about the effect of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on human health and the environment is fueling a movement to ban or restrict the "cosmetic" or "aesthetic" use of artificial chemicals for lawns and gardens.

In Canada, the province of Quebec and nearly 70 cities and towns -- including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax -- have passed laws banning or restricting the use of pesticides for lawn care.

Some activists are predicting that pesticides will become the next tobacco. "Pesticides are a bit like secondhand smoke -- if you can smell your neighbor using them on their property, then you're being exposed, too," said Michel Gaudet, president of the Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, in St. Bruno, Quebec.

The picture in the United States is more complicated. Over the past several years, the pesticide industry has successfully lobbied state legislatures to pass what are known as "pre-emption laws." These give states responsibility for pesticide regulation and prevent cities and towns from enacting their own laws. So far, 30 states have adopted pre-emption laws.

"Local communities generally do not have the expertise on issues about pesticides to make responsible decisions," said Allen James, president of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, a pesticide-industry lobbying group. "Decisions are made much more carefully and the train moves much more slowly" at the state level.

At the same time, however, 20 states have adopted laws requiring signs or some sort of public notification when pesticides are applied to lawns. Dozens of communities have also adopted policies barring or restricting the use of pesticides on school property, public ball fields and parks.

Beyond Pesticides, an environmental group in Washington, has responded to Project Evergreen's "gloves are off" ad with a copycat ad that features a pair of feminine-looking gardening gloves decorated with daisies over the headline, "Get a Grip."

"The chemical lawn care industry is worried that the word is getting out on the toxic hazards of lawn pesticides," the ad says. "It is possible to have a green lawn without toxic pesticides."

A team of medical researchers with the Ontario College of Family Physicians, a Canadian professional society for family doctors, released a report last year that analyzed 250 previously published epidemiological studies from around the world on possible adverse effects of pesticides on human health. The report found "consistent positive associations" between popular pesticides used in lawn care and cancers, reproductive problems, neurotoxic effects and other serious illnesses.

But industry officials say pesticides must pass 120 different tests before they can be marketed in the United States.

However, roughly half of homeowners admit they don't read or follow label directions when applying pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to lawns, often using significantly more than the recommended amount, lawn-care experts said.

TAKE ACTION: If you are interested in launching a campaign in your community to stop the chemical lawn care industry and promote pesticide-free lawns, contact Eileen Gunn, egunn@beyondpesticides.org, and the pesticide-free lawn campaign at Beyond Pesticides. See Beyond Pesticides' Lawn Care: Pesticide Hazards and Alternatives webpage.