Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Responsibilities of PFPs (Pesticide Fearing People) and the Pesticide Industry

"You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand".  This popular quote from Leonardo Da Vinci is almost always the first thing that pops into my head when I see an article such as that which came across the Star Press last Friday.  The title reads simply "BSU cancels herbicide spraying at Burris" but reading on, the quote from above continues to reveal it's truth, over... and over... and over.  Before we get to deep, a little background for the reader first.  Ball State University is in Muncie, IN.  The "Burris" Laboratory discussed in the article is a part of their Teacher's College which serves  K-12th grade students and University teaching majors who use the laboratory to learn teaching skills.  We all caught up now?  Well let us proceed....

In short, a petition brought forth by the parents of students attending Ball State has led to the cancellation of weed management activities on the University's campus.  This is the second year in which weed management has come under pressure, as last year's activities were briefly halted until the outgoing university president deemed the management activities safe.  This year, however, weed management activities at Burris caused the parents of those attending BSU (remember, not the majority of which even spend time at Burris) to file petition, stopping any further activities.  As a result, University personnel now cite a severe weed problem that is affecting the aesthetic value of the campus, not to mention attracting numerous stinging insects.....
The word "herbicide" has stirred panic among those who least understand it.  Parents of BSU students (not actual students who use the Burris facilities) have decided that the risk from highly regulated herbicide application (to weeds, not the children) is much more than potential immediate pain, swelling, and anaphylactic shock brought on by stings... Have no fear though, the Universities' exploratory committee (made up entirely of internal resources with no outside input) will investigate other alternatives....

In today's world, "chemophobia" can almost be designated as a state of mind, and it has become common practice, especially among popular media outlets and public figures.  A stance firmly built upon decades old farming practices and unregulated pesticide use nearly a century ago, has led many to believe that these "poisons" that are killing the weeds will likely take us down with it, no matter what precaution is taken.  

The reality is, however, that we are leaps and bounds.... NO.... light years away from our careless ancestors.  The pesticide industry today is one of, if not THE most highly regulated industries in the country.  This regulation is certainly justified, and not without reason or warranted precaution, however the stigma left by practices long before many of our grandfathers were even born continues to haunt us.

The aquatics industry often "bears the brunt" of the ill informed masses, as this group helps manage the most vital resource in the world:  Water.  Aquatic plant management through the use of herbicides in particular faces its own battle with public perception.  Citizens would opt rather for the expansion of some of the most economically and environmentally damaging weed species in our nation rather than manage or eradicate through chemical means, based solely on fear.  This should alarm not only those in the aquatics industry, but also those in natural resources management, public health, and many other affected sectors. The effect of this fear, not the means used to control such weeds, could be devastating to our natural systems.

The response to such fear should not be, however, the dismissal of questioning or worse, the bereavement of the information that could lead to informed decision making and understanding on the part of the public.  It is the responsibility of those charged with the safe use of pesticides to educate and inform those who least understand.  It is their job to help those charged with management make the most informed and unbiased decisions possible that will best serve the public while also protecting our natural resources.

So, for those reading who have the loudest voice when it comes to the use of pesticides (on either side of the argument), please take a step back and ask yourself a question or two.  For the loudest voice AGAINST herbicide use: Are you informed on the subject to the best of your ability?  And for those responsible for the safe and responsible use of pesticides: Have you done all possible to adequately inform and involve those who have petitioned its use?

I leave you with one final quote...."Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

For more information on the use of herbicides in aquatic plant management, visit our Best Management Practices Handbook, Appendix C;  "A discussion to address your concerns:  Will Herbicides Hurt Me or My Lake".

For the entire Star Press Article, click here.

Stay tuned for more from the Aquatics Update!


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