Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Acts of Kindness
Bills Threaten Biological Control

Acts of Kindness

Dear Editor,

In recent times, we have often heard tell of acts of kindness from strangers. Our family recently had an experience which revealed to us the power and value of such kindness. On Sunday of the Common Ground Fair, as we were readying to venture home, our 7-year-old daughter, Sarah, fell off a log on which she was standing. It was immediately apparent that her arm was broken and needed medical attention. A number of people came forward to assist us and we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude. Many remain nameless to us, but we hope they read this and hear how much we appreciated the help they gave us. To the Bicycle Coalitioner who gave a ride to the First Aid tent on the lobster bike, to the nurse who stopped and made a splint, to the First Aid volunteers on the Fairgrounds, to the Unity Rescue Squad, to the Inland Hospital Emergency Room staff and the Delta ambulance crew: our sincere thanks to you all. The support we felt from these compassionate folks enabled us to be calm and to help our daughter to cope with her pain and helped all of us cope with our distress. We are happy to report that Sarah is doing quite well, thanks to the excellent care she received from some very wonderful strangers.

– Colleen and Mark Robinson, N. Yarmouth


Bills Threaten Biological Control

To the editor:

Two proposals, H.R. 1504 and S. 910, will establish conditions that will guarantee more pesticide use, greater adoption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and slow the implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) by greatly limiting access to biological control alternatives, because these laws do not distinguish between beneficial biological control organisms and harmful “plant pests.” They are not the same thing. That interpretation would serve one purpose: the wholesale repression of biological control technology. Organic farming, presently a 20% annual growth market segment, and sustainable agriculture would be crippled. These bills are fatally flawed and should be withdrawn. They seem to have a superficial and plausible exterior but an unacceptable, improperly defined, counterproductive content.

While they are still in committee, read these bills carefully and let the Honorable Dan Glickman, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture (14th St. and Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250 Fax: 202-720-2166) know what you think. Contact your local elected officials and make it clear that this is not just a bill that “will take proactive measures to prevent noxious weeds and foreign organisms from destroying crops,” as the analysis of the bills reported to our elected officials describes. Instead it is the work of those who would repress biological control technology to maintain a sterilized landscape for multinational agrochemical and genetic engineering corporations. These bills would serve magnificently in their relentless assault on the family farm.

The protections these bills claim already exist in the Plant Quarantine Act (7 U.S.C. 151-164a, 167 of 1912), The Federal Plant Pest Act (7 U.S.C. 150aa et seq., 7 U.S.C. 147a note), Department of Agriculture Organic Act of 1944 (7U.S.C. 147a), and The Federal Noxious Weed Act of 1974 (7 U.S.C. 2814) – with one important difference: the “only good bug is a dead bug” anti-biological control component imbedded within it. This seems to be a sneaky and sadly predictable way to get around the drubbing that USDA took on the biological control regulation “straw man” document, put out for public comment a few years ago and universally slammed by all commenters, then withdrawn.

“Protecting” us from saner, safer, more affordable and environmentally benign pest management is not in the best interest or the common good. Biological control has one of the best health, safety, environmental and economic return records of any human enterprise. Biological control is the very engine that drives the planet and goes on around us every minute of every day. Biological control has already been “beta tested” for 2.5 billion years and proven itself worthy. Life and life process both will be “owned” and regulated by this pending authority.

The definitions in this bill are acutely worse than the botched organic standards proposal. Biological control organisms are not plant pests. We should all demand an explanation for why they are being so labeled. There is no scientific justification for such representation. Look at the enforcement aspect of these bills and see just how dangerous and silly they are. Put another way, this law will “protect” the environment from the environment.

Terms we thought we would never hear in association with biological control include: warrantless searches, Secretary of Treasury, contraband, prohibition on intrastate and interstate movement, Sec. 105 Biological Control and “Declaration of Extraordinary Emergency and Resulting Authorities,” United States Magistrate Judge, warrant for entry, Enforcement of subpoena, Criminal penalties for violation, fines of $50,000.00 Dollars in the case of any individual, $250,000.00 in the case of any other person, and $500,000.00 in the case of all violations adjudicated in a single proceeding, settlement of civil penalties, and a year in prison. Some of these penalties are greater than violating drug laws. Is this being done to “taint” biological control as “risky,” “dangerous” and marginally illegal?

As a practical matter these laws will be grossly abused. They are pointed directly at the family farmer and alternative agriculture. They will finally give legal authority to employees who have been hostile and obstructionist to biological control and sustainable agriculture for many years. They can be found imbedded in federal and state governments, public institutions, the extension service of our land grant universities and some state Departments of Agriculture. The direct result will have an immediate and sustained cooling effect on biological control projects. Who would want to be the test case for these kinds of exaggerated fines and penalties?

Who actually authored this defective “product?” Is this the work of chemical pesticide industry representatives, or Machiavellian bureaucrats working to expand fiefdoms? Obviously somebody wants them, but these bills are clearly not in the best interest of the majority of the American people.

– Patrick D. McKown, Samuel DeFazio, Jean E. McKown, Praxis. 2723 166th Ave. Allegan MI 49010 Ph/Fax 616-673-2793


MOF&G Cover Winter 1999-2000