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Warwick Passes First-In-The-State Ban on Glyphosate

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2017 December Issue Newsletter

By Dan Bensonoff

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “the government closest to the people serves the people best.” Had he lived into the 21st century, he would assuredly have been appalled by the distance between the American citizen and the policies that directly affect their life and well-being. A few weeks ago, the citizens of Warwick, Massachusetts took one small, but significant step toward collapsing that dangerous distance.

In an effort to protect the townspeople from the increasingly well-known health impacts of glyphosate, a popular herbicide, the citizens of Warwick passed an ordinance that bans glyphosate use on public and private land. The effort was led by Selectman Lawrence “Doc” Pruyne, a retired reporter who’s resided in Warwick for six years.

Doc said he was first alerted to the risks of glyphosate by learning about GMOs about 11 or 12 years ago. Tangentially, he began to investigate the dangers of glyphosate when he learned that the two agricultural technologies are intertwined. Doc said that the turning point for him occurred during a canoe trip on the Connecticut River a few years back. While passing a farm along the river where Doc and his family occasionally buy produce, he noticed that the river served as their source of irrigation water. This deeply concerned him, since he knew that just upriver lay Vermont where 96% of the corn grown in VT is GMO corn. Surely, he realized, glyphosate was ending up in the river and very likely making its way into the food he eats.

Those connections eventually coalesced and prompted him to put forward a town ordinance which would make a small dent in the problem, and perhaps inspire other towns to consider similar actions.

In September of 2017, Doc invited Jack Kittredge of NOFA/Mass to offer a presentation about the issue to the town in order to help them make an informed decision. During that meeting, many people were surprised to hear of how much peer-reviewed research points to health concerns – non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, fatty liver Disease, and gut dysbiosis – associated with the ubiquitous chemical. Some citizens expressed concern that without glyphosate they would have no way of dealing with invasive plants, which prompted a discussion about organic landcare strategies.

The fate of the ordinance is still in flux, since it is technically up to the state to decide how pesticides are regulated. But Doc is hopeful that, regardless of the outcome, his town has taken a bold and necessary step in the direction of health.

If you’d like to support the effort towards local control of pesticide use, please send a letter to your legislators by clicking here.

If you’d like help running a campaign to pass an ordinance in your town, please contact Dan Bensonoff, NOFA/Mass policy Director, at dan@nofamass.org

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