Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pesticides Continue To Endanger Animals and Plants

Reading a recent article about environmental issues in Florida got me thinking about how pesticides are still taking their toll on animal and plant species here in New Jersey.

Florida’s federally protected species are in the middle of an effort by environmentalists to tighten controls on pesticide use. The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency it will sue unless EPA makes major steps to protect endangered or threatened species from chemicals used for killing plants or animals.

Pesticide makers have to register new products with EPA, which studies the chemicals and sets limits on how they can be used. That includes looking for unintended impacts on wildlife and plants, but it does not currently reviews and consultations with government agencies specifically about effects on endangered or threatened species.

On the other side, industry groups representing pesticide manufacturers say that government agencies are usually too busy and are extremely understaffed already.

Stricter regulations could put land off-limits for farming that uses pesticides, lowering crop yields and raising food prices.

Again and again, we see the clash of environmental protection and economics. Clearly both are important, but decisions that please both sides seem to be rare.

Since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring more than 40 years ago, the general public has been more attuned to the effects of chemicals in pesticides in our foods and the environment.

In NJ, the NJDEP is charged with enforcement of pesticide regulations, and citizens can file a complaint or report a pesticide spill or accidental misapplication.

The PCP began a series of pesticide use surveys in 1985. The various spheres of pesticide use addressed by these surveys are listed on their website and include agriculture, lawn care, mosquito control and other areas.

For example, one project focuses on the ground-based application of resmethrin and prallethrin for adult mosquito control. Goals of the project include determining the extent of the migration of the pesticide away from the target area and the amount of residue deposited in and around the site of application.

The information collected from these use surveys is used as a building block by agencies within the NJDEP for development and implementation of programs including ground water protection, farm worker protection and education, and sampling for residuals.

The data allows for the assessment of what pesticides are being used to a greater extent and to a lesser extent, what crops are receiving heavier or lighter pesticide applications, counties and municipalities showing increased or decreased use through the years, etc.

Even if someone is not an "environmentalist," they should be concerned with many of the same issues as that group for their own protection. As part of the NJDEP effort to address the issues raised by the Federal Food Quality Protection Act, the New Jersey Food Monitoring and Evaluation Program (NJFMEP) was initiated to catalog the pesticide residue levels present on produce being sold and consumed in New Jersey.

Since 2000, over 350 samples have been collected from roadside markets throughout the State. While the majority of the commodities collected were grown in NJ, the program does not ignore commodities that were grown in another state or country and sold to NJ consumers. The commodities examined include apples, asparagus, blueberries, broccoli, cauliflower, cherries, Chinese vegetables, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, onions, peas, peaches, peppers, potatoes (white and sweet), spinach, squash, strawberries, sweet corn and tomatoes.

Organic produce is also including in the program. Each sample collected is analyzed for over 100 different pesticide residues, including environmental contaminants such as DDT and dieldrin. As this program continues to expand, more commodities and sampling locations will be added to help further ensure the quality of the fresh produce in New Jersey.

EDUCATE young people at home and in schools about this topic with materials at
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/kids/ 

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