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Beekeeper: Hogan was wrong to veto ban of harmful pesticide in Maryland | READER COMMENTARY

Stephen McDaniel, a Carroll County beekeeper of 35 years, is pictured with part of a bee colony, one of 13, he lost in 2017. The queen bee, marked with a yellow dot at center left, and its worker bees all died in their hives. Many, including Mr. McDaniel, blame the cause on a pesticide that lawmakers moved this year to ban under a law vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan.
Stephen McDaniel, a Carroll County beekeeper of 35 years, is pictured with part of a bee colony, one of 13, he lost in 2017. The queen bee, marked with a yellow dot at center left, and its worker bees all died in their hives. Many, including Mr. McDaniel, blame the cause on a pesticide that lawmakers moved this year to ban under a law vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

Gov. Larry Hogan has vetoed a bill that he should have signed. Senate Bill 300 which would have banned the use of a very toxic insecticide passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in the Maryland General Assembly this year and should have become law (“Maryland should ban child-endangering chlorpyrifos permanently,” Feb. 25). I urge the state legislature to override this veto when it reconvenes.

Based on nerve gas, the chemical called chlorpyrifos should never have been approved in the first place. Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it — it’s supposed to be difficult. Widely used in the 1990s, it was even applied in schools for routine control of ants and roaches until a lot of kids got sick from it. Some of them still suffer from its damage. After 2000, it was banned for indoor use but it is still used on golf courses, farms and orchards, mostly on fruits and vegetables. That still exposes people who eat the food and people who live nearby, as well as farm workers, to its toxic effects which are many.

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As a neurotoxin, chlorpyrifos attacks nerve cells, as in the brain. Even in tiny amounts, it affects children in many ways as their brains are still developing. Learning disabilities, ADHD, even autism can result from unintended exposure to this poison. Breast cancer, asthma, immune deficiency and infertility can also come from this stuff. And we wonder why these conditions are so widespread! In 2015, an 18-year EPA risk assessment determined that there was no safe level of chlorpyrifos in food or drinking water.

As if the effects on people weren’t enough, it also kills bees and other pollinators. In 2017, after many of my bees died, the Maryland Department of Agriculture took samples from my hives and found — you guessed it — chlorpyrifos, apparently from the farms across the road.

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Governor Hogan’s veto threatens the work of beekeepers whose bees, like mine, keep dying year after year. The governor’s rationale is that the bill is moot because the Maryland Department of Agriculture can regulate its use, but MDA has a dismal record when it comes to regulating pesticides. A regulation can be changed on a whim and weakened or overturned at any time. A regulation is vulnerable to challenge in the courts by the pesticide industry. A law is the only way to provide protection to all Marylanders with certainty. That is why SB 300 needs to be on the short list for a veto override next session.

There are many other, less-toxic alternatives to such a nasty poison that don’t endanger our health, our children’s health and our pollinators. There is not a single crop or use where chlorpyrifos is the only control product available. I do not understand why any farmer, knowing its dangers, would want to use it. I do not understand why any legislator would vote against this ban, but a few did. When the override comes to a vote, let’s ask our representatives to make it unanimous and finally ban chlorpyrifos.

Stephen McDaniel, Manchester

The writer is a certified master beekeeper and co-owner of McDaniel Honey Farm.

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