On Wednesday, Portland residents have an opportunity to steer our city on a future-focused course sure to attract residents, visitors and businesses who value Maine’s environment and their personal health. This is a course already being charted by South Portland, Ogunquit and 25 other Maine towns and cities.

At 5:30 p.m. in council chambers, the City Council’s sustainability subcommittee invites residents to weigh in on a proposed organic land-care ordinance. This science-based ordinance will be up against a city task force ordinance based on pesticide industry marketing tactics about when and where to use synthetic pesticides, and the industry propaganda that all pesticides share equal risk.

Science shows us that pesticide risks vary widely and that organic pesticides have the lowest risk.

The first ordinance mirrors the South Portland organic ordinance – the strongest of its kind in the nation. It requires organic land care on public and private land; bans synthetic pesticides, unless there is an exemption or waiver; and includes a strong public education program rooted in academic and professional expertise.

Harvard University is one such academic center. The school transitioned all of its properties to organic land care in 2004, creating healthier grass, saving money and using 30 percent less irrigation. Harvard officials describe conventional lawn care as “product based” and organic land care as “knowledge based.”

Organic land care is not about using pesticides and products, but about building soil fertility using knowledge.

Here in Maine’s cultural heart and most liberal enclave, the choice is clear. Residents want organic.

Now is the time to chart a bold course. Let’s align ourselves with Harvard rather than the pesticide lobby and choose the path of knowledge over products. Let’s adopt a strong organic land-care ordinance. Let’s make Portland a leading organic city.

Avery Yale Kamila