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Bill Would Stop Regulation of Pesticide Use Near Water

June 24, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Just as new revelations are emerging about the possible link between the most widely-used pesticide in the U.S. and human birth defects, Congress is working to liberalize pesticide-use policy to allow farmers and local governments to spray near public waterways without having to seek special permission under the Clean Water Act.

On Tuesday, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee unanimously approved H.R 872, a bill “to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify Congressional intent regarding the regulation of the use of pesticides in or near navigable waters, and for other purposes.” The House of Representatives passed the bill on March 31st by a vote of 292-130.

The bill would override a 2009 federal court ruling that agricultural chemicals, even those approved for use by the EPA, qualify as “chemical waste” under the Clean Water Act and, therefore, should require a special permit and set of guidelines to be sprayed in, around, and over bodies of water. The bill’s supporters argue that the special permits for use near water constitute duplicative regulation since the chemicals have already approved for general use by one government agency. Opponents argue that applying the Clean Water Act’s guidelines for minimizing how much chemical makes it into our water supply is good because, well, minimizing the amount of chemicals in our water is good.

With the unanimous Senate committee approval, it’s very likely that the bill will be passed by the full Senate soon. No word yet from the Obama Administration as to whether he will sign it or veto it. The “Clean Water Framework” released by the Obama Administration in April includes a plan to “ensure water quality to protect human health,” but it does not specifically mention agricultural sprays as a concern.

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eth111 06/25/2011 8:28am

Mr. Shaw, your article is replete with errors.

First of all, the study found a potential link to Round Up (more specifically, glyphosate) which is an herbicide, not a pesticide.

Second, glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, it kills every plant that it comes in contact with, so if farmers use it, it is only along ditchbanks to keep their water flow unimpeded. When I lived in NM, I used it in xeriscaped areas of my yard for weed control.

Third, the article, which mentions use on genetically modified soy, assumes that the cause of the birth defects is the glyphosate, not the genetic modification in the soy.

Fourth, the bill is specifically targeted pesticides, fungicides, and rodenticides with no mention of herbicides so the article is dubious from top to bottom considering that the study cited and the bill of concern have no relevant overlapping content.

donnyshaw 06/25/2011 12:17pm

I believe herbicides are a type of pesticide. From NIH:

A pesticide is any substance used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are considered to be pests. Pesticides include herbicides for destroying weeds and other unwanted vegetation, insecticides for controlling a wide variety of insects, fungicides used to prevent the growth of molds and mildew, disinfectants for preventing the spread of bacteria, and compounds used to control mice and rats.

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