Pres. Jackson introduces bill to ban aerial spraying of toxic herbicides in forestry

AUGUSTA – Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, introduced legislation to ban the aerial spraying of toxic herbicides in forestry at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee on Tuesday. LD 125, “An Act To Prohibit the Aerial Spraying of Glyphosate and Other Synthetic Herbicides for the Purpose of Silviculture” would protect Maine workers, families, forests and streams from the adverse effects of these harmful chemicals.


“Large landowners started to incorporate aerial herbicide spraying as a part of their forestry management plan three decades ago. Since then, those of us who have worked in the woods and lived near the practice of spraying have seen the irreversible damage it has caused. We have seen the threat it poses to the health of our families, friends and neighbors. Now, reports of the harmful effects of glyphosate and other synthetic herbicides – on top of thousands of lawsuits and bans across the globe – have confirmed our suspicion,” said President Jackson. “The use of aerial herbicides in the Maine woods benefits the bottomline of large landowners at the expense and well-being of the people living and working in the region. It’s time we recognize the harm done by the aerial spraying of glyphosate and other synthetic chemicals. It’s time we do the right thing and put an end to this practice.”


Aerial herbicide spraying is used in the forestry industry by landowners to kill off less favorable trees to facilitate the growth of more profitable trees. This practice has continued despite the adverse effects these chemicals have on the local ecosystem, wildlife, neighboring lands, drinking water and the health of the people working in the Maine woods. 


“Opponents of this measure argue that banning the aerial spraying of these herbicides may result in a loss of jobs, but there is no reason to believe that protecting jobs and protecting our environment can’t go hand-in-hand. In fact, we need to protect our health and the health of our environment if we have any hope of relying on it for our economy in the decades to come,” said Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, a cosponsor of the bill. “Existing state policies discourage reliance on pesticides, but the practice of aerial herbicide spraying continues to grow in our state. It’s time for the Legislature to take action to help support the health and well-being of Maine’s people, environment and economy by banning the aerial spraying of substances like glyphosate.”


Glyphosate, the central ingredient in many herbicides, has been banned in several towns, cities, states and countries over the past few years due to links to cancer. The World Health Organization’s International Agency on the Research of Cancer has declared the chemical “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Germany is the most recent country to move in this direction. The use of aerial herbicides has been banned locally in some areas of the state, including President Jackson’s hometown of Allagash


“My concern for the use of aerial spraying goes beyond my experience in organic farming. As a nurse-midwife, I have serious concerns about the effects of aerial spraying on public health. Increasingly, glyphosate has been tied to adverse and lingering health effects in humans, including Parkinson’s disease and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In addition to that direct negative impact, the lack of control that is possible with aerial spraying allows for chemicals to enter Maine’s groundwater and streams,” said Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, an organic farmer and certified nurse-midwife.


Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the company Bayer, which develops, manufactures and sells the prominent weed killer Roundup. The lawsuits allege Bayer failed to warn consumers about the dangers of their products, specifically, the patented synthetic herbicide glyphosate. 


President Jackson’s bill is supported by loggers, farmers, and advocates, including Maine Public Health Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Maine Chapter, Defend Our Health, Maine Wilderness Guides Organization and the Environmental Priorities Coalition. Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition is a partnership of 32 environmental, conservation and public health organizations representing more than 100,000 members who want to protect the good health, good jobs, and quality of life that our environment provides.


The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry was scrutinized by several lawmakers at the public hearing for touting a report that was authored by a firm regularly used by Irving Woodlands, one of the largest users and benefactors of aerial herbicide spraying. Both the Department and the firm have been invited to participate in public forums on this issue but have refused to participate.


LD 125 faces additional work sessions in the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.


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