Pesticides and Us
Pesticides have, for many years, been a mixed blessing. When DDT was first developed, it seemed to be the answer to the spread of malaria and other dangerous diseases. But over time, harmful impact on the environment, particularly birds, led scientists and governments to ban its use.
Today, many pesticides are in common household use. Unlike those used in commercial applications, these are unregulated. No data is available to determine how these products are used. They are often advertised as safe for pets, for children. But as with DDT and other agents in the past, concern has arisen over the unseen impact of these agents. The honeybee population has been in steep decline for more than a decade, and a principle target of investigation is a pesticide called glyphosate.
The Coalition is Born
In response to local concern over this blind, unregulated use of pesticides, The Pesticide Reduction Coalition was formed. The Coalition consists of about 15 members, with Kevin Wright, of Parks and Open Space, as the Project Manager for the County. According to Leslie Alden, who with Nancy Vernon represents the Supervisor’s office:
“Members [were] elected for their diverse backgrounds and experience, from native species experts, pesticide-free advocates, representatives from the Hispanic community, a student, a representative from the Humane Society, and “applicators” like Richard Estrada of ATCO Pest Control, landscape professionals, and nursery/retail owners. The meetings are staffed and attended by County representatives, including Nancy and me, Health and Human Services, MCSTOPPP, and Parks and Open Space.”
Goals and Process
The Coalition’s mission, according to the campaign charter, “is to raise wareness among private pesticide users, including residential and commercial property owners, schools, and landscape workers, of the use by the private sector of toxic landscape products, and encourage significant reduction of the use of products such as glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp.”
The Coalition’s campaign began with a survey to assess local public awareness and use habits. So far that effort has netted over a thousand responses, with results still being tabulated. Of the survey, Project Manager, Kevin Wright notes:
“Some expressed concern about a biased sample because the survey went out to a large number of environmental and other groups concerned about pesticide reduction. However, Marin’s cities and towns and advertising in local Patch’s and the Marin IJ resulted in nearly 50% of the total responses and reached residents across the county.”
Based on the results of the December survey, the Coalition will begin a multi-media, multi-faceted educational campaign to continue raising awareness in the community about the negative impact of careless use of herbicides and positive opportunities non-toxic alternatives represent.
Through this first phase of the campaign, the Coalition hopes to affect a change in behavior by residents and eventually a significant reduction in the use of toxins in our local landscape.
As Leslie indicates, ATCO is involved because we represent an important part of the equation: pest management. But beyond that, it has always been our mission to move the industry and public perception away from the culture of “you spray, you pay” toward a safer, more sustainable and responsible system. Our EcoWise® certification speaks to that commitment. Our practice is and has long been to minimize use of toxic agents in treating pest infestation. We are eager to contribute our energy and expertise the Coalition’s work, going forward.