Carole Horowitz: State must rein in pesticides

Published: 06-12-2023 8:48 PM

We are discouraged by the failure of the Massachusetts Legislature to limit the use of toxic pesticides in the commonwealth. This May, for the third time in six years, a grassroots coalition of scientists, doctors, wildlife veterinarians, farmers, gardeners and schoolchildren filled the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources hearing room to testify on a slate of pesticide reform bills to protect wildlife, pollinators, humans, and the natural environment, and address the critical need for pollinator protection and habitat.

We expect joint committee to favorably advance strong pesticide legislation again this session as they have in the past. But despite the committee’s support, not a single pesticide-related bill has become law, leaving us pessimistic about seeing real change enacted because of the inordinate influence of the pesticide lobby.

A huge part of the problem is, as the Boston Globe Editorial Board wrote about the legislative process, “virtually everything by way of policy comes from the top down.” The undemocratic Legislature, where everything is controlled by a few in leadership positions and the power of individual legislators is greatly diminished, favors corporate lobbyists who exert their influence behind closed doors.

It’s obvious to us that this is where the obstacle to passing pesticide legislation lies. Meanwhile, business as usual in the commonwealth means that schoolchildren continue to be exposed to toxic pesticides where they learn and play; dangerous pesticides are routinely approved with little to no discussion by the Pesticide Board Subcommittee of the Department of Agriculture, which has never seen a pesticide it doesn’t like; wildlife is killed by unregulated use of rodenticides; and funding is scarce for pollinator habitat, desperately needed to address the biodiversity crisis.

We know that allies in the Legislature are also frustrated, would like to restore faith in democracy, and protect the earth’s ecosystems from harmful pesticides. We urge them to leverage their political capital to push for meaningful action on pesticide reform.

Carole Horowitz

Florence

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