December 5, 2010

Maine Gardener: Spray? No way.

A movement to limit the use of pesticides in Maine is gaining ground, starting with public places that children frequent.

By Tom Atwell
Staff Writer

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"Canada is light-years ahead of the United States," Tukey said. "They have a different system up there where lobbying is not allowed."

But he does think if activists can get towns to ban the use of lawn pesticides on school properties, it will have a wider effect.

"If a young mother sees that they are banned at school," he said, "she will be taking the message home that she doesn't want them put on her lawn, either."

The Maine Landscape and Nursery Association, whose members include lawn-care professionals, is taking a close interest in the move to limit pesticide use.

Mark Faunce of Limington, association president, said some MeLNA members attended the pesticide summit, but were not there as representatives of MeLNA.

"What MeLNA promotes is best management practice," Faunce said, "and that includes such things as integrated pest management. We believe that the safe use of pesticides, whether synthetic or organic, is what is important. Our members are professional people, and are not out spraying willy- nilly. Our kids play on those spaces too, and we don't want anyone getting sick."

Jesse O'Brien, proprietor of Downeast Turf Farm in Kennebunk and a past president of MeLNA, said the companies are glad to be part of the discussion, and that their goal is to grow healthy plants safely.

"We feel we have more in common than differences with those concerned with this issue," O'Brien said. "We feel continued education and forums where we can share knowledge will help create the desired result for the state of Maine."

Tukey, who has had a working relationship with MeLNA over several decades and showed "A Chemical Reaction" at a MeLNA annual meeting, understands the landscapers' position.

"I don't think those people are the bad guys," he said. "The real core problem is the homeowner who is not licensed and not educated, going to Home Depot or Walmart and buying three or four 40-pound bags of poison on a windy day. The instructions say to apply on a calm day. How many calm days do you get in Scarborough in the summer?"

Tukey and Stevens said there are movements in several Maine communities, including Scarborough and Gorham, to institute ordinances to limit lawn chemicals in some way.

They also said there were some state legislators at the pesticide summit, and they are going to try to see if some of them will introduce pesticide legislation.

"It's the children who are most susceptible to these chemicals," Stevens said. "We are working to protect them."

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:


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