AUGUSTA — The Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry unanimously passed LD 316, An Act To Prohibit the Use of Chlorpyrifos on April 20. The bill now goes to the full Legislature for a vote.
The bill, sponsored by Representative Vicki Doudera and co-sponsored by Senator David Miramant, both of Camden, bans the use of chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide proven to cause adverse impacts on the environment, human health, and food system. The prohibition of the pesticide will begin in 2022, allowing limited exemptions for one year.
Years of research has shown chlorpyrifos to be dangerous, and its residential indoor use was banned by the EPA in 2000, per a news release.
In July 2015, the federal government proposed a ban on chlorpyrifos everywhere after reviewing multiple research studies, partly funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, highlighting the substance’s negative impacts, the release noted.
Despite the overwhelming evidence from its own agency, the federal government reversed the proposed ban in 2017, according to the release.
“That decision meant that chlorpyrifos has continued to be applied here in Maine, largely in the agriculture community,” said Rep. Doudera, who introduced the bill. “It’s used on produce that we eat, such as cranberries and broccoli, and on holiday items we buy, such as Christmas trees and wreaths. It’s used on some of the golf courses where you might spend a summer afternoon, and on the ornamental plants you might purchase at a greenhouse.”
Rep. Doudera noted Maine farmers, farm workers and their families are particularly vulnerable to this neurotoxic pesticide’s negative impacts, and she is thrilled with the committee’s passage of the bill.
“The vote on this legislation is the best Earth Day present our state could receive,” she said.
Sharon S. Tisher, J.D., a retired attorney who taught environmental law and policy at the University of Maine for 26 years, was a key supporter of the bill.
“Banning chlorpyrifos was a no-brainer, both because it harms children's brains and because the case for ending its use has been overwhelmingly documented for decades,” she said. “I am delighted that the entire Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry committee saw eye to eye on this legislation."
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) has long advocated for an end to the chemical’s use.
Heather Spalding, deputy director of the organization, called Tuesday’s unanimous vote “welcome, important and thoughtful.”
“Not only will the legislation protect human and environmental health, but also it will create market incentives for safe and effective alternatives that are readily available in the marketplace,” Spalding said. “This policy initiative, coupled with market restrictions like Wal-Mart’s recently announced sunset of chlorpyrifos will increase Maine’s access to healthy, locally produced food, and an overall reduction of toxic chemicals in our food, air and water.”
Sen. Miramant, lead co-sponsor of the bill, said he was pleased with the vote and thanked local legislators Senator Chloe Maxmin and Representative Bill Pluecker who serve on the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.
“Hawaii and California have already banned this dangerous organophosphate and New York is phasing it out,” said Sen. Miramant. “I’m glad that Maine will take the same step to protect our children who are bioaccumulating this toxin and having their future destroyed for corporate profits.”
The bill was also cosponsored by Rep. Lori Gramlich of Old Orchard Beach, Rep. Nicole Grohoski of Ellsworth, Sen. Maxmin of Lincoln County, Rep. Margaret O’Neil of Saco, Rep. Laurie Osher of Orono and Rep. Sarah Pebworth of Blue Hill.
The bill awaits the Governor’s signature.