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Growing Organically Since 1982

Policy Update, April 2019

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2019 April Issue Newsletter

By Marty Dagoberto, NOFA/Mass Policy Director

Glyphosate causes cancer, court finds; Newburyport moves to ban the biocide

On March 20th in a surprise victory for safe and sustainable agriculture and landscaping advocates, a federal court found that Monsanto’s Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing a man’s cancer. The German company Bayer bought Monsanto last year in a controversial mega-merger, and along with it the liability of its flagship product; the company’s stocks plummeted 12% on the day of the verdict. Bayer now faces more than 11,200 lawsuits over the popular weed killer, as city parks departments and other entities across the country discontinue its use, as a precaution.

The City of Newburyport, Massachusetts is the most recent local municipality to begin phasing out use of the biocide, glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup). Thanks to the ongoing efforts of Newburyport resident Walt Thompson, the City Parks Department decided in February 2019 to stop using glyphosate in city parks. Then on March 21st, the Newburyport Board of Health issued a proclamation recognizing the risks of synthetic pesticides and establishing April 2019 as “Alternative to Pesticides Month!” The City Council will now take up a resolution to ban the use of glyphosate on all city property. "The driving force for me trying to have this banned has been for the sake of bees and butterflies, but there appears to be long-term effects on kids and workers who are exposed to this stuff," Walt stated. In reflecting upon the momentum in Newburyport, he remarked: “We’re on the North Shore, but we’re still making waves.”

We at NOFA/Mass are so grateful to have the opportunity to support Walt’s work by providing advice, educational resources and by mobilizing our members in Newburyport to sign his petitions and attend town meetings. In partnership with the Toxics Action Center, Regeneration Massachusetts, and others, NOFA/Mass is supporting local organizing in dozens of Massachusetts communities to limit pesticide use, protect pollinators, and promote organic landcare practices. To join our “All ‘Cides” network and “make waves” in their locality, changemakers can attend our monthly group calls and gain access to a library of resources by emailing marty@nofamass.org.

Finally, there are several proposed pieces of state legislation which tie directly to efforts to phase out the use of glyphosate. The powerful chemical lobbyists are, of course, fighting hard to stop any state-level action that will affect their bottom line, so we need anyone and everyone to contact their legislators often about these bills and to educate them about the risks of glyphosate. If your state legislators are members of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (which is currently reviewing these bills), you are in the position to have an even greater impact on these bills. Everyone, please contact your state legislators, let them know why you think glyphosate should be banned/restricted, and ask them to stand up to the chemical lobbyists and to protect us our people and our pollinators from this biocide. If your legislator’s name is listed below (lucky you), please thank them for being a champion against toxic pesticides and let them know that you have their back as they face industry opposition.

      

An Act empowering towns and cities to protect residents and the environment from harmful pesticides

S.447/H.776: Sen. Julian Cyr, Rep. Dylan Fernandes and 54 cosponsors

Under the 1978 Mass. Pesticide Control Act, local town/city governments don’t have the right to ban harmful pesticides town/citywide. This bill would return power to communities to protect their families, food, water and pollinators from harmful pesticide exposure. With the approval of a municipality's Board of Health, a city or town government would be able to “restrict or prohibit the use and application or disposal of pesticides within the city or town that are more stringent than the standards and restrictions [adopted by the state].”

 

An act update to only allow pesticides that are minimum risk on school grounds.  Photo by By Jarek TuszyńskiAn Act relative to improving pesticide protections for Massachusetts schoolchildren

H.791: Rep. Carmine Gentile and 41 Cosponsors

H.791 updates the outdated list of pesticide products eligible for use on the outdoor grounds of schools, child care centers and school age child care programs within the state of Massachusetts (See Chapter 132B, Section 6G of General Laws). This list of eligible products, created in 2001, no longer reflects of the current state of science around the harm pesticides pose to children. This bill would allow only pesticides considered minimum risk by the EPA (and prohibit the use of glyphosate and 2,4-D, which is currently permitted).

                                       

An Act relative to the use of glyphosate on public lands

S.499: Sen. Jason Lewis and 28 cosponsors

This bill would end the application of any glyphosate-based herbicide on any public lands owned or maintained by the Commonwealth without a special permit.  It would also outlaw the use of “any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its label.”

 

An Act relative to the prohibition of the transfer or use of glyphosate in the Commonwealth

H.792: Rep. Carmine Gentile and 6 cosponsors

Last but certainly not least (perhaps the most?), this bold and appropriate proposition by Rep. Carmine Gentile would effectively ban glyphosate! The bill prohibits the distribution, sale or use of glyphosate or any products containing glyphosate within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Stay tuned to our website and newsletter for announcements about public hearings for these bills (likely to start in May). We will want to fill the hearing room, flood the committee with our concerns over glyphosate and “All ‘Cides,” and push us all toward a more safe and sustainable Commonwealth.

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