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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 06, 2019 1:00 am

Rethink using risky pesticides this year

Ricky Kemery

Q. I have seen lawsuits advertised on TV and information on the internet about Roundup and other pesticides – neonicotinoids, and “growth regulator” herbicides used on lawns. Should I be concerned?

A. The simple answer is yes – you should be concerned as a user of pesticides to control “pests” such as weeds or plant disease, or insects in the garden and landscape. Most pesticides kill things, and any substance that can kill other organisms can potentially cause harm to the humans that use pesticides and the creatures of the earth affected by those products.

Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term “pesticide” also applies to herbicides, fungicides and various other substances used to control pests.

Many citizens are unsure of whether they are being given correct information regarding pesticides, because in the past there have been pesticides that were touted as safe when they were released, and then found to be unsafe and later removed from the market.

Glyphosate (Roundup and other products) is one example. Millions of pounds of glyphosate have been used by farmers, landscape professionals and homeowners annually.

The product was and is reported as safe by universities, Monsanto (the manufacturer) and government agencies such as the FDA. However, the World Health Organization in 2014 declared glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen.” Since then, many countries and even U.S. cities have banned or restricted the use of glyphosate.

Two lawsuits were recently won by individuals who applied Roundup, and glyphosate has been linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in commercial applicators in the state of California – this is why you see the commercials on TV.

The use of neonicotinoid insecticides has also come under scrutiny because of their toxicity to bees and other pollinators. This class of insecticide is common in many home garden products and is also used as a seed treatment in corn.

According to Texas A&M Extension, new research points to potential toxicity to bees and other beneficial insects through low-level contamination of nectar and pollen with insecticides used in agriculture.

Both glyphosate and neonicotinoids are systemic – meaning they actually go within the plant. This causes more issues when these products are used on food crops such as corn and soybeans.

Research has shown that herbicides used on lawn weeds have been linked to cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders.

Citizens, farmers and commercial applicators need to take great care when applying pesticides for their own safety and the safety of others. Be aware and knowledgeable – I look at actual credible research studies – about pesticides.

Healthy plants grown in healthy soil have few if any pest issues. I have learned to tolerate “weeds” or some insect damage. If I have to use a pesticide, I follow label directions. Nowadays, I always look for alternative, least toxic methods for a sustainable landscape and garden.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.