Reclaiming the future of food and farming:   A city goes ‘organic’

Portland Maine Street

In early January, the City Council of Portland, Maine unanimously passed a tough ban on synthetic pesticide use in the city, leading many Portland residents to applaud their city’s new “organic” status. The ordinance comes in as one of the strongest pesticide use reduction policies in the country.

A strong city ordinance

Beginning July 1, 2019, residents and city workers of Portland won’t be using synthetic pesticides, and violators will face fines ranging from $100 to $500. The ordinance also creates an advisory committee to develop a robust campaign to educate the public and retailers about organic approaches to maintaining their lawns and gardens.

A grassroots group called Portland Protectors has been lobbying for a strict pesticide ordinance in the city for about two years, and applauds the new rules.

The ordinance includes exceptions for a minor league baseball field, a golf course and several athletic fields that will remain exempt until 2021, as well as an exemption for invasive pests.

Starting at home

Every year, U.S. homeowners apply 80 million tons of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to their lawns, and on a per-acre basis, American homeowners use 10 times more pesticides than what is used on U.S. farms. So a policy like Portland’s new ordinance, though seemingly small in scope, has the potential to create substantial benefits for the environment and human health in the community.

The organic lawn movement is taking hold across the country, and many gardeners are growing fruits, vegetables, flowers and landscapes without the use of the hazardous “cosmetic” pesticides that actually provide pesticide corporations their fastest sales growth. Find more on healthy gardening and lawn care here.

From local to national

This Portland win is indeed inspiring for those across the country who worry about how the synthetic pesticides used in their neighborhoods and public spaces may be impacting their health and the health of their children and pets.

However, Maine is one of only seven states where local laws can be stricter than state-level regulation. When it comes to pesticide policy, preemption — one level of government trumping control of another — is a key hurdle to progress in communities across the country.

Local control of pesticides by state - map

Those who live in states with community control over pesticide rules can put their local authority to good use, the way the Portland Protectors did in lobbying for this ordinance. As Avery Yale Kamila, co-founder of the grassroots group Portland Protectors told the Portland Press Herald,

“The council listened to the residents, organic experts and the independent science and decided to prioritize public health and environmental stewardship. I expect our new status as a leading organic city will make Portland even more attractive to young people and visitors.”

And those in states with limited preemption or no local control, contact your elected representatives, from city council to statehouses to the halls of Congress, and tell them that your community needs stronger pesticide protections.

PHOTO: COREY TEMPLETON | FLICKR

(http://www.panna.org/blog/city-goes-organic?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=groundtruth&utm_campaign=gt-01-12&link_id=3&can_id=abf4ece4f64484c6368b940799b63513&email_referrer=email_285218&email_subject=portland-rejects-pesticides-strict-penalties-for-drift-take-back-the-epa)