By Sharon Tisher
The Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) should be commended for its initiative and commitment over more than a year of meetings and public hearings to develop a workable pesticide notification registry for this state. (See “Pesticide Notification Registry Takes a Tailspin” in this MOF&G.) Unfortunately, somewhere along the way irrational fears expressed in some hearing testimony led the Board astray. Spurred by just two witnesses’ alarmist visions of anti-pesticide activists engaging in mass signups to “harass” pesticide applicators, the Board decided to jack up the annual fees for people who don’t have a doctor’s certificate to $35 – more than the cost of five years of notification under the original proposal. Even more disturbing was how some Board members sought to rationalize this roadblock by contending that people with certified Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) have a “science-based” reason to avoid pesticide exposure, and all others have merely a “philosophical” objection. Those Board members appear to be unwitting victims of the regulatory disease of “Multiple Science Insensitivity.” Have these citizens with whom we entrust the serious task of regulating the use and abuse of pesticides ever taken the time to study the science of the long-term, cumulative risks of pesticide exposure? If they do study the review articles MOFGA provided on diazinon, Roundup, 2,4-D, and chlorotholonil (a B-2 [probable human] carcinogen and Maine’s largest selling pesticide, the current treatment of choice for potato late blight), they may be in for a surprise. They will discover, at least, that our concern about avoiding pesticide exposure is not just “philosophical.” We’re not talking Socrates here – but the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology and Oncology, and even Ceiba-Geigy, to name a few. Praise be to BPC attorney Tom Harnett, who counseled the Board that the new fees were such a substantial change that the rules should go back to public hearing. Witnesses at the May 1 hearing – MCS victims and non-victims alike – made a powerful case for reducing or eliminating registrant fees. We hope the Board was listening.