PUBLIC PERCEPTION

The phone is ringing. It's Canada with our wake-up call. We can either sit up and answer it, or we can roll over and go back to sleep. We can either join together as an industry, or we can pretend that the worst can't happen. I'm talking about pesticide bans, and if you think that it can't happen to us, then take a look at Canada. Already many cities there have banned the use of these products. And it's trickling into our backyard, as well. No, not the continual, relatively slow-moving regulation we've already seen, but the here's-a-petition-let's-get-this-on-the-agenda-and-take-a-vote-now kind. It can happen before you even realize that it's happening. And the elements are already in place. The driving force: public perception. Perception, as the word implies, isn't necessarily based on solid scientific evidence. Rather, it's based on an idea or perceived reality. Sometimes on misunderstood interpretations. Oftentimes, solely on feelings.

Have you ever been in a crowd of people, maybe in a restaurant, where everyone is talking, but one person is talking louder than everyone else? You don't really want to listen, but can't help but hear what the person is saying. You can't seem to drown it out. So you begin thinking about what he's saying — concentrating on it, even. Such is the case with this issue. A few loud talkers are out there. They aren't even large in number — yet. But they are going to start shaping public perception because they are going to demand attention.

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Our saving grace is that it hasn't happened yet. There is still time to impact public perception of pesticide use. There is still time to get the message out that we are responsible. We are professional. We don't trade safety for job security. We follow labels. We're regulated. We're environmental stewards who use pesticides as a component of our IPM programs.

Organizations such as RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) have been looking out for our interests for years (see their Web site at www.pestfacts.org). And the newly named Project EverGreen is ready to do some loud-talking of its own, as it raises funds to back a national advertising campaign designed to protect and defend the Green Industry. For more information about Project EverGreen's plans, see “Short Cuts” on page 10. Then contact the organization to see how you can help, either by sharing ideas or by making a donation. It's time to get involved. It's time to pick up the phone.

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