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Perspective: We’ll all pay — literally — for lawmakers politicizing pesticides

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Sticker shock | noun. The astonishment or dismay experienced by the potential buyer of a particular product on discovering its high or increased price (definition link).

 

If you’ve visited a grocery store lately, you may have experienced this particular emotion. That’s because consumers are facing record-high inflation for food products. The price of food rose 6.4 percent between November 2020 and November 2021. And as our economy continues to sputter along, there’s indications that the prices will continue to climb.

Of course, we now have a Russian invasion of Ukraine to deal with. The crisis has already sent crude oil prices soaring. There’s probably more pain to come as the crushing sanctions against Russia (that are more than justified) will likely reverberate across the global economy,

And that’s all before we even mention supply chain issues and the astronomical prices of crucial inputs, like fertilizer.

John Deere
Image courtesy of John Deere

Maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t seem like the best time to make growing food harder to produce and more expensive to buy. But that’s exactly what some state and federal legislators are trying to do by banning the use of important pesticides.

In January, the New Jersey legislature enacted restrictions on most uses of neonicotinoids. The bill effectively bans about 70 percent of neonic uses, though it allows for seed treatments, termite control, and flea collars. It’s all in a misguided attempt to “save the bees,” despite the fact that bee populations are flourishing and there’s no good scientific data that neonics play a major role in previous population declines.

For context, New York legislators considered similar legislation last summer, which I wrote about as well. Thankfully, that bill seems stalled, though it did ban glyphosate use on state land.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is also actively working to ban important tools to fight agricultural pests. In November, he introduced the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2021 (PACTPA) (you have to roll your eyes at the ridiculous names these bills have). Booker claims his legislation will protect farm workers and all consumers who come into contact with what he’s dubbed as dangerous and toxic chemicals every year.

cory_booker_vegan
Image by Perry McLeod, Shutterstock

But the only thing this legislation would accomplish is make it harder and more expensive to grow food. That shouldn’t be a surprise either: Booker isn’t exactly the most farm-friendly senator in the world. He’s previously called U.S. agriculture “perverse.” And although he sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee, he has a really dim view of our food supply.

Instead, politicians should leave the pesticide regulation to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency follows standards set forth in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which has been in place since 1947. It’s a scientific approach that allows us to know how to use pesticides effectively and safely. So we don’t need individual states — or zealous senators — changing the rules to ban the trendiest “toxic” pesticide.

And don’t think it’s because I don’t care about the environment or protecting farm workers (after all, I grew up doing farm work). New York and New Jersey might think they’re protecting pollinators. Booker might imagine he’s saving children. But if these pesticides actually caused the harm activists claim they do, the EPA would have discovered that through its FIFRA reviews. Because that’s precisely the way FIFRA was designed to work.

Instead legislators are trying to impose non-scientific bans on important tools used by farmers to grow our abundant and nutritious food supply. In a time when people are struggling to make ends meet, including at the grocery store, we don’t need politicians catering to activists. We need them to work on quashing inflation and opening up markets to reduce our rising input costs, not playing games with pesticides.


Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.

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