Pesticide ban in New York?


Landscapers, nurseries and other members of the gardening industry in New York State are alarmed. According to emails I have seen, Bill 4983, in committee now, would do the following:

… eliminate virtually all pesticide use on lawns, flower beds, golf courses, day care centers and schools, residential property, ornamentals, turf, and by any state agency or municipal corporation.

I can’t fully corroborate this in terms of media reports, though I have seen mention of a bill that bans pesticide use on school and daycare center properties. (Personally, I have no problem with that, though I know many gardening professionals don’t like bans, whether they use pesticides or not.) It is now making its way through the excruciating maze of frustration we New York Staters fondly refer to as Albany.

There is also talk of using greener practices in New York State parks. I’ll be following all this with interest.

ADDENDUM: I have some calls in and will report further on this.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I will be following your comments with interest. We used to have a regular pesticide service back in the 80’s due to my fear of black widows. What I found was that I had untold problems with disease on my plants & pests were a bigger problem than they were before hte service. After my beloved black Lab died at the age of 5 from cancer, we stopped the service….goodness only knows what it did to the kids! Since going pesticide free, I have very few problems, the good bugs control the bad & really the black widows like to hide anyway….

  2. Elizabeth – you seem to be on the fence about this issue, or am I getting the wrong vibe from your post?

  3. Chris, I don’t like pesticides, but I simply can’t find enough info to get all worked up about this. I suspect that the industry people are overreacting, but again, I need more back-up.

    I was sort of hoping one of the commenters would know more. SOME ban is in the works, that’s for sure.

  4. Yeah, Elizabeth, what gives? Why the ambivalence?

    Half a century after Silent Spring, haven’t we learned anything? Pesticide use is ground zero for unforeseen ecological consequences.

    I get nothing short of enraged when I see those yellow pesticide warning flags in people’s lawns–lawns where kids and dogs play. And it’s so unnecessary. We have no pests to speak of in Saratoga Springs! I mean, aside from the happy drunks staggering home from the bars all summer.

    Regular pesticide application is just a money-making scam at the cost of people’s health–exactly the reason WHY we have a government, to keep thugs from injuring the rest of us.

    Of course, having worked in the legislature in Albany, I am just astonished at the enterprise being shown by the sponsors of this bill!

    Now I need to know who they are so I can vote for them in perpetuity.

  5. My state just issued a report concerning pesticide use in daycare centers and schools. I’m not raising children so I only gave it a half listen. I suspect that the data is rolling in on the far ranging consequences of chemical use/abuse and the future doesn’t look so bright. We seem to be at a place in history when stuff is really hitting the fan. Years ago the “price to pay” always seemed so far in the future, not any more.Things are gonna havta change or it will only get worse.

    But will we learn our lesson?

  6. I don’t like pesticides in general, but I appreciate the fact that there are circumstances, usually agricultural, where a pesticide application may be called for. In a yard pesticide applications are used as a default response to problems much too often. I can’t stand lawn care companies who spray the hell out of a yard four or five times a year to make it spotless. That said, I do use something once every 2 years or so just to keep the dandelions down (If I fertilized and irrigated more the grass could out-compete the dandelions with more success — but lets face it, irrigating and fertilizing have their own environmental problems).

    Let’s just outlaw grass….

    Actually, I like this bill — Yes, I think it’s a little overboard — but overboard is better than what we have now. We use too many chemicals on our yards and gardens. Period.

  7. If the tyranny of perfection and the cult of turf worship would just relax a bit and allow some of nature to creep back, we wouldn’t need pesticide use in residential gardens, schools or parks.

  8. Only certain provinces/towns here in Canada have banned pesticides, and often not for all applications. Many allow pesticides on golf courses but no where else. Go figure.

  9. Golf courses? I guess the concern is overuse of pesticides on golf courses but the Greenskeeper is a person often with a Master’s Degree and is well informed on the use of pesticides and herbicides which cost quite a bit of money. One would think that they would be used only when necessary to avoid major turf problems. One can choose not to go to the golf course.

  10. Yeah, the CA thing is confusing. I think Ontario banned though, and that is pretty important chunk of CA.

    The NY one is supposed to apply to golf courses according to the landscapers, but I am not sure that it really will.

  11. I am always torqued when I see those little flags. Sometimes they have pictures of squirrels and instructions to stay off the lawn. Lucky people, I guess. At my house, none of the animals can read….

  12. About once a month, I get a notice about pesticide application in one of the classrooms at my kids’ school. They apply the chemicals on Saturdays when the building is empty. What am I supposed to do with this notice? Keep the kids out the following Monday? The following week? I have no clue.

    As for our home pest control, we have a service that monitors our grounds for termites because we had a previous infestation about 15 years ago. We’ve been termite free that whole time, but we monitor just in case. The service applies a mouse dessicant in the basement and attic areas where our pets do not go. They also just applied a topical pesticide for some carpenter bees.

    We do not spray anything at all as we keep honeybees. And we use no herbicides, either.

    We have a service that happily provides us with the ingredients of their products and works with us to protect our children, pets and environment.

  13. we’ve come to realize most of our landscape pesticide usage is non-essential. If so, why have the expense fiscally, environmentally? Where it is essential, it should be used with regulation.

    I feel bad for those with roaches and the like, but then I suppose there are alternative methods there.

    Well, we’ve seen alarming law snippets before. Lets wait and see.

  14. No pesticides is a two-fer: 1) One way to greatly reduce our environmental footprint; and 2) save real money in a down economy. After stopping with the pesticides the balance between predator and prey in your yard will return. It’s happened for us here in Florida.

  15. You can pretty much count on industry groups getting up in arms about this. It’s a given that they’ll fight most any regulation of their work. New research is rolling in, as another poster mentioned, finally beginning to corroborate what many have suspected for a long time- that there is an effect on the endocrine systems of mammals (i.e., us and our kids and our pets) from some pesticides that were previously touted as harmless.

    But here’s a double-edged sword for you, and one that made me surprised to see that NY is considering enacting this law. Bedbugs, of all things, an interior pest, are making a massive resurgence, particularly in NYC, and the schools are beginning to suffer infestations, which can spread to the homes of the students. Think lice in schools with the possibility of the lice hiding in every single nook and cranny of your home.

    That’s really just an aside, and entomologists are working furiously to come up with non-toxic controls, monitoring traps, etc., but it just brings up an interesting issue as it applies to this ban for interior treatments, which presumably are included.

    As for the “lawns” or “grounds” of schools and daycare centers, I think it is absolutely insane that any of them would be sprayed with toxics for any reason.

    Having said that, any of you remember the big Malathion spray rig trolling through your neighborhood, spraying for mosquitos? We had them in Maryland. They freaked me out, even at the age of five.

  16. There’s dandelions galore in Toronto since its pesticide ban but that doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the full page ad placed by Round Up last month claiming Goldenrod was a noxious weed that needs to be killed.

  17. We have to ask ourselves if the pest is worse than the negative effects of the chemical control. In the case of Gypsy Moth, the spraying is overkill. In the case of bed bugs or what have you, I may reside on the side of chemical control.

    Do everything you can without harming everything else first. If that doesn’t work, who that you know will live with bed bugs?

  18. I DO remember the spray truck rumbling through when we lived in North Carolina in the summer. In Jacksonville. That was freaky.

  19. Not to get too off-topic, but I remember that my spray truck was red, it made a lot of noise, and looked sort of like a cement mixer trailing a cloud of poison. This is through my five-year-old brain filter, so who knows what it really looked like.

    I had been warned that it was poison, and that I should RUN if I ever saw or heard it. I was terrified of it. Unfortunately, my parents’ efforts to protect me made me so alarmed that I felt it was my duty to protect all other children from the menace, so when I heard the truck I immediately ran up to second floor bedroom, flung open the window , and yelled, “WARNING, WARNING, WARNING”, with no explanation as to what I was warning people about. The neighbors must have thought I was nuts.

  20. As a garden center operator in New York I can attest to the fact that the DEC has become extremely diffcult (for better or worse) on manufacturers on labelling laws etc ans introduction of new products.
    Limiting their use on school yards, day care etc as well as public grounds is fine. However leave the private land owner alone.
    Unless the governmant is also going to educate instead of legislate, the use of pesticides, what makes this pending (?)law any better than the other follies coming out of Albany

    The TROLL

  21. I live in Greene County where deer ticks run rampant. At the risk of my kids having Lyme Disease (two of my three and myself have already had it) or spraying to control ticks what would you do?

    I have seen the ravages of Lyme in others.

    This is one area where whether to use pesticides or not is a very tough issue.

    The TROLL

  22. I LOVE these comments….specifically the passion shown by “eliz”. From personal experience all i can say is that ALL types of pesticide, herbicide, bug sprays/chemicals and flea/tick treatments have completely isolated me to my home. Due to so much being used, i am completely disabled now and cannot even work, take college courses, or just go out places. I get sooo VIOLANTLY ill from being near it or getting even the most subtle residue on me from going out. I know many other countries have already banned these products because they know the horrible health effects on people and animals. All i can say, i pray for the day our whole country bans the stuff so i can be around people again or just go outside… i miss that! This is truly a REAL issue for people everywhere, we can’t run from it much longer. This stuff directly causes so many physical illnesses, extreme mental illnesses and neurological problems that i personally live with everyday and i know many others with the same problem….but how many of us know people who are mentally ill?!!! There aren’t many, but there are some studies that have proven chemicals in peoples lives to be one of the main contributors to mental illness….pills can’t fix that, something so simple can though. Get rid of the chemicals!!! I don’t believe we need to wait for science to tell us what’s safe…by the time they do we’ll all be sick! Look what happened with asbestos…and they told us it was safe!

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