Sna Francisco pesticide ban

Should cities and towns have the right to arbitrarily regulate and, in the case of San Francisco, ban the use of pesticides? This is an issue that has serious implications for the grounds-care industry, and it comes back to the issue of pre-emption. State pre-emption should allow the state of California to overturn San Francisco's decision to ban pesticides. However, even though state pre-emption exists in California, the state can do nothing. Because the ban is limited to property owned by the city, state primacy is avoided.

On Oct. 15, 1996, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance to ban the use of all pesticides on city property by the year 2000. This includes outdoor parks, golf courses, public housing and any building the city owns. Private property and buildings are exempt from this ordinance, thus avoiding state pre-emption.

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"We are faced with an example of a large city that has reached the political conclusion that all pesticides are bad and all pesticides are unneeded," says Allen James, executive director of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE). "They have, in fact, not taken any science into consideration in reaching a conclusion like that. Policy developed in the absence of science is not good policy. This is the reason so many states have adopted state pre-emption. States have the technical resources to provide scientific reviews of such issues."

Phase I: The first part of the ordinance prohibits the use of all Toxicity Category I pesticides-those proven to be highly toxic-as well as pesticides believed to be possible human carcinogens or the cause of reproductive disorders as of Jan. 1, 1997.

Phase II: The second part of the phaseout requires the city to reduce remaining pesticide use by 50 percent by Jan. 1, 1998. The Board of Supervisors ruling also requires a 4-day notification of pesticide applications before and after spraying and improved record-keeping of pesticide use by city departments.

During the transition to pesticide elimination, the city must implement an IPM program. This type of program would classify the use of pesticides as a "last resort" when everything else has failed. Neither the grounds-care industry or sound science supports this kind of program. In science-based IPM programs, you consider all the appropriate methods of control and select the ones that will provide the best control. Many may wonder, then, why go to the effort of initiating an IPM program to reduce pesticides when the ultimate plan is to ban them altogether? Phase III: At the commencement of the new millennium, the only pesticides permitted for use in San Francisco will be those the Board of Supervisors has reviewed and approved for use for purposes of public safety and public health.

San Francisco is already experiencing a lot of pressure to make exceptions to the new pesticide guidelines. Grounds managers and other city workers have already made their way to the commissioners to educate them on the harm that their decision will have on the city of San Francisco.

Source: Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE), Washington, D.C.

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