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Pesticides and Other Biocides Consensus Meeting

LWV Lincoln County will hold a Zoom meeting October 28, 2021, at 10:00 AM to discuss the LWVOR study “Pesticides and Other Biocides” and to answer the consensus questions for that study. Members are encouraged to read the study prior to the meeting. You can find the study and the consensus questions on the LWVOR website or obtain a hard copy by contacting the League office. Members are encouraged to join the discussion even if they have not read the study. The study’s executive summary follows.


Biocides are substances, typically chemicals, intended to kill, deter, or otherwise control specific organisms. These chemicals are used in agriculture and forestry to manage weeds and other pests so as to improve crop yields in order to feed and house a large and growing human population. Herbicides are also used to clean out ditches to support flood management, and to maintain clear road margins. Insecticides are used to control insects that may destroy crops, carry disease, invade food storage areas, or damage structures. Fungicides and rodenticides are useful biocides, as well. Unfortunately, biocides frequently have off-target impacts. They do not necessarily stay only in the areas where they are applied. Rather, they can be spread by wind, water, and animals to neighboring areas as well as carried on workers’ clothing. They can contaminate our environment in unanticipated ways and with unanticipated consequences. Increasing evidence demonstrates that they can adversely impact workers, neighboring communities, consumers, and wildlife, including pollinators. As more evidence of negative impacts has accumulated, the need for effective control of their use has become clear. What action balances the benefits of biocide use with the harms? What policy changes can result in the widespread, or exclusive, use of best practices? This study has looked at many aspects of how and why pesticides are developed, regulated and used, along with both the positive and negative impacts that are a consequence of that use. Currently, state and federal agencies overlap in some responsibilities, and a harmonization of policies between agencies at the state and federal level is warranted. This study has identified five key areas in pesticide policy.

Education, training, and labeling. Dissemination of best practices for pest control and pesticide use can, and have, minimized intentional and unintentional misuse and harms of pesticide products. Recommendations:

  • Make pesticide labeling more user-friendly;

  • Better educate the public about proper handling and potential hazards of pesticide use;

  • Improve training for pesticide applicators and farmworkers who are most likely to come in contact with higher concentrations of pesticides than the general public.

Transparency and information gathering. A lack of information about pesticide ingredients, how and when pesticides are used, and medical implications of pesticide exposure hampers our ability to identify problems with pesticides both before and after they occur, avoid exposure, and treat exposures resulting in harm to human and environmental health. Recommendations:

  • Improve training for medical professionals to recognize and treat acute and chronic pesticide exposure;

  • Increase monitoring and testing of the environment, wildlife, and farm workers for pesticide contamination and developing regulations and strategies to eliminate or at least mitigate the causes of these exposures once found;

  • Maintain accessible national and state databases of residue contamination, medical and environmental adverse effects and contaminated sites; WAVE LENGTHS 6 October 11, 2021;

  • Require more complete public disclosure of pesticide ingredients.

Funding, research, and evaluation. Adequate and stable funding for state and federal agencies is critical to implementation of policy. Without funding, monitoring of pesticide use and potential harms, enforcement of pesticide policy, completion of the best possible science, and evaluation of the latest scientific data all lapse. Recommendations:

  • Ensure continuing and adequate funding for relevant agencies; and

  • Increase the quantity and scope of publicly funded research into the off-target and long-term effects of pesticide use, including:

  1. Review of combinations of pesticides that are used together to understand synergistic and antagonistic effects;

  2. Potential hazard of other ingredients included in the pesticide formula;

  3. The potential impact of climate change on the migration of pests and how that may influence pesticide use.

Adaptive management and Integrated Pest Management. Pesticide policy must be nimble in order to keep pace with rapid advancements in technology and scientific knowledge. Flexibility is also required in order to address the myriad and varied pest concerns in different ecosystems and environments across the country. Policy must include consideration of emergencies that imminently threaten human or environmental health or our infrastructure. Recommendations:

  • Regulate and manage pesticide use flexibly, with a continuous process of review and the ability to rapidly act on new information and research about its effects that will generate improved outcomes;

  • Increase implementation of Integrated Pest Management, which includes preferring cultural and mechanical means of addressing pests, minimizing use of pesticides, and using less-toxic alternatives known to have equivalent efficacy.

Burden of proof and the precautionary principle. What overarching principles should guide pesticide regulation and policy? While pesticide manufacturers must supply some initial data on pesticide properties and safety, it does not and realistically cannot cover all potential harms from pesticide use and reasonably foreseeable misuse. Implementation means reviewing how we address pesticide policy-making in the absence of complete information. Should we work from a principle that if there is no current evidence that a product/ pesticide is harmful, we can assume it is safe? Should we err on the side of use or caution in the face of this uncertainty? When pesticides are used and harm is suspected, who should bear the burden of proof: The consumer or user who suspects that pesticides have harmed them, businesses and other organizations who have chosen to use the pesticides, or the pesticide manufacturer?

LWVOR is looking for member consensus on how we should support or oppose policy that will affect the use of biocides in the future.

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