How Much Do You Know About Pesticides and Your Food?
by Sharon S. Tisher
True or False:
1. Rachel Carson's 1962 best seller Silent Spring was a wake up call that led to a reduction in pesticide use in the United States. Answer
2. Pesticides that have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA-registered”) for use by farmers are "safe” when used as directed. Answer
3. When the EPA looks at a pesticide to decide whether to register it for use in the U.S., its primary concern is to ensure that there are no significant human health or environmental risks presented by the chemical. Answer
4. The EPA performs toxicity tests on pesticides prior to registration. Answer
5. The federal government prohibits use of pesticides known to cause cancer. Answer
6. The EPA takes the necessary precautions to ensure pesticide levels are safe for our infants and children. Answer
7. “Weed and Feed” and other combinations of fertilizer and pesticides are safe, environmentally responsible, and effective means to give your lawn all the care it needs to thrive. Answer
8. Cancer is the primary risk from chronic, long term exposure to pesticides. Answer
9. The "Inert Ingredients" included in pesticides are biologically inactive and hence not hazardous. Answer
10. Pesticides may only be used in Maine if they have gone through the EPA's registration process. Answer
11. Washing and peeling fruits and vegetables removes all or most pesticide residues. Answer
12. Imported fruits and vegetables are more likely to have pesticide residues than domestic. Answer
13. Eating certified organic food or growing your own food organically is the best way to minimize exposure to pesticides in your and your children's diet. Answer
14. The 1996 Food Quality Protection Act has effectively addressed the fundamental inadequacies of our pesticide regulatory system: taking into account the special vulnerability of infants and children, the non-cancer risks such as endocrine disruption, and the cumulative effects of multiple exposures of different pesticides in our diets, our home and working environments, our air and water. Answer
15. You have no way of knowing whether and when your child's school is applying pesticides. Answer
16. Your neighbor doesn't have to tell you when he's applying pesticides, and you have no way to stop him, even if the pesticides make you sick when they drift onto your property. Answer
17. Maine municipalities have no power to regulate pesticide use. Answer
1. Rachel Carson's 1962 best seller Silent Spring was a wake up call that led to a reduction in pesticide use in the United States.
False: Carson's book raised public consciousness and understanding of the risks of pesticides and (a decade later) led to the cancellation of the registration of DDT and several other persistent organic pesticides (though they continued to be manufactured for use abroad). However, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, 1.25 billion pounds of pesticide active ingredients were sold in 1995 in the U.S., more than double the 540 million pounds sold in 1964. Adjusted for inflation, U.S. pesticide expenditures have grown about 3% annually since the 1970's. The percentage of crop acres treated with herbicides has risen from about 50 percent in the 1960's to more than 96 percent in the 1990's. (Benbrook, C.M., Pest Management at the Crossroads, Consumers Union, 1996, at 81-84.) The adoption of genetically engineered crops has contributed to the increased use of herbicides in the last decade. The hundredth anniversary of Carson’s birth was celebrated on May 27, 2007, with the recognition that the struggle for truth and caution that she pioneered is ongoing. In The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote that, “As much as any book can, Silent Spring changed the world by describing it,” but that, “Six years into the Bush Administration, it’s basically the ant wars all over again. At key agencies, a disregard for inconvenient evidence seems to be a prerequisite.” (The New Yorker, May 28, 2007, at 24) Meanwhile, Senator Tom Colburn from Oklahoma blocked a resolution to laud Carson in Congress, blaming her for using “junk science” to turn the public against DDT. (Bangor Daily News, May 24, 2007, at A3). Back to top.
2. Pesticides that have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA-registered”) for use by farmers are "safe” when used as directed.
False: Even the EPA concedes that its pesticide registration process is no guarantee of safety. EPA regulations specifically prohibit manufacturers of pesticides from making claims like "safe," "harmless," or "non‑toxic to humans and pets" with or without accompanying phrases like "when used as directed." (40 CFR sec. 156.10(a)(5)(ix)) Back to top.
3. When the EPA looks at a pesticide to decide whether to register it for use in the U.S., its primary concern is to ensure that there are no significant human health or environmental risks presented by the chemical.
False: The legal standard for registration set down by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is, unlike most other environmental statutes, a " risk‑benefit" standard. EPA must register pesticides if they do not pose "unreasonable risk to man or the environment, taking into account the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.” (7 USC secs. 136(bb) and 136a(c)(5)(C)) This means that if a pesticide presents substantial benefits to farmers in terms of increased yields or decreased labor costs, those benefits are weighed against health and environmental risks. Even if there are substantial health risks, the EPA may decide the economic benefits outweigh the risks.
The federal Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA) did away with the economic benefit analysis for new tolerances for dietary risk, but left it unchanged for human occupational exposures and environmental risks. According to a conversation with EPA Office of Pesticide Programs public relations staffer Cathy Monk, this cost-benefit analysis is probably why the EPA didn’t change anything about how blueberry growers in Maine use Guthion (Azinphos-methyl) when they reassessed the organophosphate, even though the EPA found extremely serious environmental and farmworker risks. See answer to question 14. Back to top.
4. The EPA performs toxicity tests on pesticides prior to registration.
False: Toxicity tests are performed neither by the EPA nor by independent laboratories contracting with the EPA. Pesticide manufacturers provide the data that the EPA bases its judgments on. There is an inherent conflict of interest between EPA's need for unbiased data and the manufacturers' need for data that show their products are not hazardous. For examples of biased and fraudulent testing, see Journal of Pesticide Reform, Summer 1997, at 7. While manufacturers contend that fear of lawsuits keeps them honest, this argument hardly holds water for long-term, chronic consequences of pesticide exposure such as cancer or decreased sperm counts, which show up years after exposure. Back to top.
5. The federal government prohibits use of pesticides known to cause cancer.
False. 12 of the 26 most widely used pesticides in the U.S. have been classified as possible or probable carcinogens by the EPA based on studies of laboratory animals, with an annual use that totals 380 million pounds. (atrazine (C=possible), metolachlor (C), metam sodium (B2=probable), dichloropropene (B2), cyanazine (C), pendimethalin (C), trifluralin (C), acetochlor (B2), chlorothalonil (likely), mancozeb (B2), fluometuron (C), and parathion (C). Four frequently used pesticides have been associated with increased risk of cancer for exposed humans in epidemiological studies. 190 million pounds of these four pesticides are used annually in the U.S., including 120 million household applications every year. (atrazine, 2,4‑D, glyphosate, diazinon). (Journal of Pesticide Reform, Summer 1999, at 5.) Atrazine, the most widely used herbicide in the U.S., was recently reclassified as “Not likely to be” a carcinogen; however, its endocrine disrupting characteristics are of new concern. With an estimated 75 million pounds annual use nationally and 44, 292 pounds sold wholesale in Maine in 2000, Atrazine was recently found to cause tadpoles to develop multiple sex organs or become hermaphrodites as adults, at concentrations well below those often found in run-off from agricultural fields. (Dalton, R. 2002. Frogs put in the gender blender by America’s favorite herbicide. Nature 416:665-666) Diazinon, however, as a result of a reexamination under the federal Food Quality Protection Act, is no longer legal for indoor residential use as of December 31, 2002, and nor outdoor residential use as of December 31, 2004. (www.epa.gov/REDs/factsheets/diazinon_ired_fs.htm) (Two excellent websites for information about the toxicity of these and other pesticides are www.pesticideinfo.org and http://ace.orst.edu/info/extoxnet) A compilation of pesticides sales by agricultural dealers in Maine, for the year 2000, reported a total of 880,095 pounds of pesticide active ingredient that are classified as known or likely carcinogens. (Maine Board of Pesticides Control, unpublished reports.) Back to top.
6. The EPA takes the necessary precautions to ensure pesticide levels are safe for infants and children.
False. In our population, developing fetuses, newborns and young children are among most vulnerable to and least protected from pesticides. A 1993 study of the most preeminent scientific body in the United States, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, found that "infants and children differ both qualitatively and quantitatively from adults in their exposure to pesticide residues in foods. Children consume more calories of food per unit of body weight than do adults. But at the same time, infants and children consume far fewer types of foods… The current regulatory system does not, however, specifically consider infants and children... Current testing protocols do not, for the most part, adequately address the toxicity and metabolism of pesticides in neonates and adolescent animals or the effects of exposure during early developmental stages and their sequelae in later life." (National Research Council, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children, 1993, at 1 ‑13.) The Council recommended a 10‑fold additional safety factor in setting pesticide tolerances to protect children. The 1996 federal Food Quality Protection Act mandated revision of tolerances to accomplish this. On August 3, 2006, the E.P.A. announced that it had completed a ten-year review of U.S. pesticide safety, focusing on the special risks presented to children. However, both environmental activists and some of the EPA’s own scientists question whether the EPA had enough information on developmental neurotoxicity to set safe tolerance levels. (See answer to Q. 14) Back to top.
7. “Weed and Feed” and other combinations of fertilizer and pesticides are safe, environmentally responsible, and effective means to give your lawn all the care it needs to thrive.
False. These products are fundamentally contrary to the principles and practices of “Integrated Pest Management” (IPM), which require least toxic means of pest management to be applied only after a pest problem has been identified, and not routinely. For this reason, and based on a recommendation of Maine Board of Pesticides Control staff, Governor John Baldacci took the important step of banning these fertilizer/pesticide mixtures, and other pesticides used for purely cosmetic purposes, for use on state owned and managed office buildings and their grounds. (“An Order Promoting Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products and Services,” February 22, 2006.)
Unnecessary use of lawn and yard care chemicals is a skyrocketing problem in Maine. According to the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, over 2.9 million pounds of yard care pesticides were brought into Maine in 2004. This has tripled since 1995 and coincides with a triple explosion in the number of yard care companies in Maine. Fortunately, folks in New England are also showing greater interest in hiring organic lawn care companies. The Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) lists roughly 300 organic lawn care professionals. For more information, see NOFA's Guide to Organic Land Care at www.organiclandcare.net. Other great resources are Paul Tukey’s The Organic Lawn Care Manual, Storey Publishing, 2007, and his website, www.safelawns.org. Maine's Board of Pesticides Control also has tips available at its yardscaping website.
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8. Cancer is the primary risk from chronic, long term exposure to pesticides.
False. Risks to the human immune, reproductive and endocrine systems, as well as neurotoxicity, may be equally or even more significant. Of the 45 environmental contaminants or agents that have been reported to cause changes in mammalian reproductive and hormone systems, 8 are herbicides, 8 fungicides, and 17 insecticides. (Raloff, J., "That Feminine Touch," Science News, Vol. 145 (January 22, 1994)). 9 of the 26 most commonly used pesticides have been associated in laboratory tests with sperm abnormalities, reduced sperm production, disrupting male hormones, or damaging male reproductive organs. Use of these pesticides totals over 300 million pounds per year. (Journal of Pesticide Reform, Summer, 1999, at 4). A 2006 analysis published in the distinguished medical journal The Lancet concluded that tiny amounts of common pollutants including pesticides may be causing a “silent pandemic” of neurological disorders impairing development of foetuses fetuses and infants. Among the potential consequences are lower IQ scores and conditions such as autism, attention deficit disorder, and cerebral palsy. (Grandjean and Landrigan, “Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals,” The Lancet online, November 8, 2006, http://www.kevinleitch.co.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/chemicallist.pdf)
Nine years after the Food Quality Protection Act mandated consideration of endocrine disruption effects of pesticides (and 45 years after Rachel Carson first called attention to this problem), the EPA announced in June, 2007 that it would begin screening 73 pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, malathion, and atrazine, for their risk of endocrine disruption. They were chosen for their potential for human exposure at home and in the workplace. OMB Watch commented that this screening is long overdue and that there are flaws in the process: "...scientists are assailing this risk assessment as scientifically weak.... expressing concern EPA has not properly constructed the dose-response assessment, which compares dosage level to health effect. Unlike other contaminants, endocrine disruptors may cause different or more serious adverse effects at trace levels than at greater levels. Scientists are also concerned about the influence of industry in construction of the risk assessment." (http://ombwatch.org/article/articleview/3860) Back to top.
9. The "Inert Ingredients" included in pesticides are biologically inactive and hence not hazardous.
False. Inerts are almost always chemically functional and are added intentionally to enhance the performance of the "active” ingredient. They are generally solvents, emulsifiers or synergists or compounds that in some way make the active ingredient work better. Of more than 2300 substances EPA believes are used as inerts in pesticide products, over 1700 are classified as "of unknown toxicity" because EPA does not have adequate information about their potential hazards. But state, federal, and international agencies have classified 26 percent of them (about 600 chemicals) as hazardous. Xylenes, for example, cause vomiting, impaired short‑term memory, and reduced fertility. In people occupationally exposed to xylenes, the frequency of leukemia is increased. However, the EPA does not include chronic toxicity testing for xylene when used as an inert in pesticide products. (Journal of Pesticide Reform, Summer, 1999, at 8, Summer, 1997 at 5.) Back to top.
10. Pesticides may only be used in Maine if they have gone through the EPA's registration process.
False. The Maine Board of Pesticides Control, and other similar agencies in other states, regularly make application to the EPA, at the request of farmers, for "emergency approval" of unregistered pesticides to meet "special local needs.” To accommodate farmers because of administrative delays in formally registering products, these applications are often granted, repeatedly for the same product. These products have been registered for some agricultural uses, but not for the “special local needs” use, so no tolerance setting “safe” levels of residue has been set. Back to top.
11. Washing and peeling fruits and vegetables removes all or most pesticide residues.
False. It may reduce some residues, but definitely not all. A 1994 analysis by the Environmental Working Group, using USDA data, found 12 different carcinogens, 17 neurotoxins, and 11 pesticides that disrupt the endocrine or reproductive system in 12 fruits and vegetables that had been washed, peeled, and prepared for consumption. The foods most likely to be contaminated were (in declining order) peaches, apples, celery, potatoes, grapes, and oranges. One out of every 10 apples, peaches, and servings of celery, when washed, peeled, cored and made ready to eat, had four or more pesticides on it. Over 80 percent of apples, peaches, and celery had residues of one or more pesticides on them. (Washed, Peeled, and Contaminated~ Environmental Working Group, 1994). Note that these data on specific foods, and other similar data cited elsewhere in these answers, are drawn from U.S. government data on "representative" sampling of produce in the U.S. marketplace; they do not specifically represent Maine produce; nor produce grown with advance Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods that may significantly reduce the level of pesticide contamination. Unfortunately, Maine has not implemented a system of IPM certification and labeling, hence it is difficult to identify in the marketplace those food products grown with reduced levels of pesticide input. Back to top.
12. Imported fruits and vegetables are more likely to have pesticide residues than domestic.
False. This was thought to be the case, as many pesticides illegal in the U.S. are still manufactured in the U.S. and elsewhere for use in other countries. The developing world has a far less comprehensive system of pesticide regulation than the U.S. However, a 1999 study by Consumer Reports found that, surprisingly, domestic produce had more, or more toxic, pesticide residues than imported in two thirds of the cases studied. Domestic peaches had a pesticide toxicity score ten times higher than imported peaches. (Consumer Reports, March, 1999, at 28) Back to top.
13. Eating certified organic food or growing your own food organically is the best way to minimize exposure to pesticides in your and your children's diet.
True, although even some organic food has tested positive for trace residues of pesticides, as a result of the background exposure to these chemicals in our soils, air and waters. Organic foods are much less likely to have residues, and when found residue levels are well below those found and legally permitted in conventional food. See Baker et al., “Pesticide residues in conventional, IPM-grown and organic foods: Insights from three U.S. data sets,” Food Additives and Contaminants, Volume 19, No. 5, May 2002, www.consumersunion.org/food/organicsumm.htm.
A University of Washington study analyzed pesticide breakdown products (metabolites) in pre-school aged children, comparing children eating at least 75% organic food with children eating at least 75% conventional food. The study found median concentrations of organophosphate metabolites six times lower in the children with the organic diets, and average (mean) concentrations nine times lower, suggesting some children eating conventional produce had much higher concentrations of metabolites. See Curl et al., “Organophosphorus pesticide exposure and suburban pre-school children with organic and conventional diets,” Environmental Health Perspectives, October 13, 2002, www.panna.org/resources/panups/panup_20030131.dv.html
Also keep in mind that some conventionally grown foods are riskier than others. A 1998 Consumers Union study looked at typical diets of American children, and government data on residues of the most toxic insecticides, the organophosphates and carbamates. It found that the nine foods most likely to contribute to dietary insecticide exposure in children were apples, pears, peaches, grapes, oranges, peas, green beans, potatoes and tomatoes. By contrast, carrots generally have very rare, low residues of organophosphates and carbamates; edible portions of sweet corn and bananas are also comparatively "clean." Organophosphate and carbamate residues are almost completely absent from milk and dairy products, meats, vegetable oils, and sweeteners. (Consumers Union, Worst First: High-Risk Insecticide Uses, Children's Foods and Safer Alternatives, 1998, at 13-14) A 1999 study by Consumer Reports, which looked at both pesticide residue levels and the relative toxicity of those pesticides, found that apples, grapes, green beans, peaches, pears, spinach, and winter squash had toxicity at hundreds of times the level of other foods analyzed. Foods with the lowest toxicity levels were apple juice, bananas, broccoli, canned peaches, milk, orange juice, and canned or frozen peas or corn. (Consumer Reports, March, 1999, at 29).
A 2006 study by Environmental Working Group analyzed nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2004. In findings largely confirming previous studies, EWG found the foods with the most pesticide residues to include peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines and strawberries, and those with the least to include onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn and peas, mangoes and asparagus. (www.foodnews.org, free downloadable Shoppers Guide). Back to top.
14. The 1996 Food Quality Protection Act has effectively addressed the fundamental inadequacies of our pesticide regulatory system: taking into account the special vulnerability of infants and children, the non-cancer risks such as endocrine disruption, and the cumulative effects of multiple exposures of different pesticides in our diets, our home and working environments, our air and water.
Probably False. The EPA’s response to Congressional mandates under the FQPA has been fraught with criticism from the beginning. The long, controversial history of regulation of Azinphos-Methyl (AZM), is a case in point. AZM is an organophosphate used on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including "wild" blueberries in Maine, most often under the brand name Guthion. In the late 1990’s, a number of environmental and farmworker protection organizations resigned from a top-level EPA advisory committee over dismay at the EPA's decision not to immediately suspend registration of AZM. The EPA had concluded that dietary risk from food alone for AZM exceeded the reference dose "safe" level for nursing infants and children age one to six in the U.S., without consideration of other exposures such as pesticide drift or the cumulative effect of other like chemicals. However, it opted for minor changes in use of the pesticide rather than suspending it. The August 2, 1999 EPA press release urged the American public to continue to continue to eat fruit with AZM residues, even before these "mitigation measures" are implemented: "The food supply is safe; this action just makes it safer." On environmental and worker protection issues the EPA was somewhat less reassuring: "Azinphos-methyl also poses unacceptable risks to birds, aquatic invertebrates, fish, and terrestrial mammals. It poses a very high risk to aquatic organisms, perhaps the highest among all the organophosphate pesticides. Azinphos-methyl is also one of the most persistent of the organophosphates applied foliarly. The voluntary risk reduction measures should help reduce many of these risks." The press release also noted that “Azinphos-methyl is hazardous to workers…Estimated risks remain unacceptable despite the use of additional protective clothing, equipment, and engineering controls. Post-application risks to reentry workers greatly exceed EPA’s level of concern.” (EPA, Azinphos Methyl Risk Management Decision, August 2, 1999, www.epa.gov/pesticides/;citizens/azmfactsheet.htm) The Environmental Working Group's calculations based on preschoolers' consumption of four foods (apples, pears, peaches and apple juice) were that 49,500 preschool children exceed EPA's acute reference dose for Azinphos-methyl every day, accumulating to more than 18 million unsafe exposures per year: "Dietary exposure to Guthion alone..presents more than twice the risk allowed in EPA's "risk cup" for all [organophosphates]. And Guthion is only the first of at least six organophosphates with a significant dietary risk profile to reach the refined assessment phase within the agency." (Environmental Working Group, Children are Overexposed to Guthion, April, 1999).
In 2006 the EPA at long last announced that it would phase out all uses of Azinphos-Methyl by 2012, with some uses phased out by 2007. A spokesperson for the United Farmworkers of America noted that the phase out was welcome, “but it is inexcusable for EPA to allow this pesticide to continue poisoning workers for 6 more years.” (Earth Justice press release, November 16, 2006).
The big picture on implementation of the FQPA is one of decidedly mixed results – some major accomplishments that will have a positive impact on health, and much work remaining to be done. On August 3, 2006, the EPA announced that it had completed its ten year review of pesticide safety mandated under the FQPA. The EPA reviewed about 230 pesticide active ingredients and 870 inert pesticide ingredients, with nearly 10,000 tolerances. Positive outcomes from this review include phaseouts of residential uses of two highly toxic pesticides, diazinon and chlorpyrifos, and the cancellation of 17 organophosphate pesticides. In May, 2006, as the EPA was poised to announce the completion of its FQPA review, nine presidents of unions representing EPA scientists and risk managers wrote a letter to the EPA administrator, expressing concerns that the EPA was about to give approval for organophosphate and carbamate pesticides that may be neurotoxic, especially in developing fetuses, infants, and children. They stated that they were “concerned that the Agency has not, consistent with its principles of scientific integrity and sound science, adequately summarized or drawn conclusions about the developmental neurotoxicity data received from pesticide registrants.” They cited a January 2006 Inspector General report, Opportunities to Improve Data Quality and Children’s Health through the Food Quality Protection Act, that points out flaws in the EPA testing process that have yielded a less than “complete and reliable database on developmental neurotoxicity of pesticides...upon which to base any final tolerance reassessment decisions as required by the FQPA.” Among other issues, the EPA’s required pesticide testing does not include sufficient evaluation of behavior, learning, or memory in developing animals. (Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 114, Number 10, October 2006, www2.ehponline.org/members/2006/114-10/spheres.html) Back to top.
15. You have no way of knowing whether and when your child's school is applying pesticides.
False. In 2002, thanks to the work of MOFGA and the Maine Toxics Action Coalition, the Board of Pesticides Control passed new regulations about pesticide use in Maine schools. The regulations require all Maine schools to use integrated pest management techniques when applying pesticides, including choosing the lowest risk products. It also provides for staff and parental notification of pesticide use. Whether a school gives notification every time a pesticide is used, or gives annual notification with a pesticide registry system for parents who want notification of each application, is up to the individual school district. Contact your school superintendant to find out how this regulation is being implemented in your school, and for a copy of the regulations and more information, see http://www.state.me.us/agriculture/pesticides/schoolipm/ Back to top.
16. Your neighbor doesn't have to tell you when he's applying pesticides, and you have no way to stop him, even if the pesticides make you sick when they drift onto your property.
False. The Maine Board of Pesticides Control has two systems for requiring notification by near-by neighbors of outdoor pesticide applications, a self-initiated request for notification, which can be made regarding any property within 500 ft. of your property, and a pesticide notification registry, which applies to applications within 250 ft. Neither of these provisions require any evidence of special medical condition or adverse effects from the pesticides. See http://www.state.me.us/agriculture/pesticides/rights.htm for details. In addition to any legal rights you have regarding pesticides that drift onto your property and make you sick, including common law chemical trespass, negligence, and nuisance actions, the BPC has a regulation for designation of pesticide free, or restricted, “Critical Pesticide Control Areas.” These may be imposed when the Board finds that use of pesticides “is likely to cause serious and/or longstanding impairment of the health of sensitive individuals or groups of individuals who normally occup such areas.” (Regulation 60-3) Medical documentation is required, and the zone will not be established until after a public hearing and notification to all affected property owners. The rule has been used successfully only once to protect human health, in the case of a child with multiple chemical sensitivity. For more information contact the BPC at 287-2731. Back to top.
17. Maine municipalities have no power to regulate pesticide use.
False. Municipalities have general “homerule” authority to regulate matters that affect the health and welfare of their residents. A Board of Pesticides Control document lists twenty municipalities that have imposed additional restrictions on pesticide use. The communities of Coplin Plantation, Lebanon, Limestone, New Sweden, and Rangeley, for example, have prohibited aerial or powered pesticide applications generally, or in certain areas of the community. The “Right to Farm” statute (17 M.R.S.A. sec. 2805(4)), however, gives the Commissioner of Agriculture the authority to review proposed ordinances which restrict pesticide use and to “advise the municipality” if the proposed ordinance would restrict or prohibit use of “best management practices.” A farm operation “may not be considered a violation of a municipal ordinance if the method of operation constitutes a best management practice as determined by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources in accordance with the Maine Administrative Procedures Act...” The interpretation of this is under dispute, as the Commissioner of Agriculture has contended that a proposed Addison ordinance banning aerial spraying was not enforceable as it would prevent blueberry “best management practices.” Read about the spray ban in Addison. Back to top.