School Environmental Protection Act: What does it mean for school IPM?

The blog post below was written by Mike Merchant, urban entomologist at Texas AgriLife Extension Service, in response to the recent introduction of H.R. 4159: the School Environmental Protection Act.  Those who are not familiar with the bill can click here to read it. The bill seeks to reduce or eliminate pesticide use in schools. The bill has both its proponents and its critics.

Below is Dr. Merchant’s response to the bill. While guest posts do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Southern Region IPM Center, we welcome the opportunity to encourage thoughtful debate about IPM topics.

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Doing IPM in schools is the right thing to do. But this current legislation is not supported by most professionals working to implement safer and better pest control for school districts. For one thing, it will pre-empt even the most comprehensive school IPM programs in the country–laws that have been painstakingly developed over years in coordination with regulators, schools, IPM experts and the public. The bill would in practice eliminate nearly all pesticides, except the most primitive products with limited usefulness, for any purpose except public health emergencies. A good thing you say? This would leave schools with few alternatives for termite control, nuisance pest control and turfgrass management. Telling schools that they must do IPM and like it, while at the same time taking away all the best pest management tools in their tool boxes will not make IPM successful. Indeed this approach runs counter to the IPM concept which emphasizes use of multiple control tactics. In Texas we’ve chosen a route that does not ban any pesticide that might be needed, but provides incentives to use fewer and lower toxicity insecticides. The result, after 15 years of implementation, is enthusiasm among schools to jump on the IPM bandwagon, use of fewer and safer pesticides, and better pest control. Indeed, over 200 Texas school IPM coordinators met last month to form their own voluntary association dedicated to keeping schools safer, cleaner and pest-free. This is tremendous progress when I recall the low-priority, chemically intensive approach to pest control most Texas schools took just a few years ago. Instead of resubmitting the same impractical, unpopular and expensive bill year after year and watching it die in committee, Beyond Pesticides, Rep. Holt and others should consult with states and figure out a way to provide us with a simple bill that requires licensing of all school pesticide users (a very basic requirement still needed in many states) and mandates states to develop their own incentives-based IPM programs–which they can design. If there is ever going to be progress in this area, this is the way to go.

 Michael Merchant, PhD, BCE
Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

One Response

  1. Is this ok to add this article to my facebook fan page, i think they would love this stuf

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