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Sierra Club Conservation Policies

Pest Management

Pest Management is a process for determining whether pest suppression treatments are needed, when and where they should be applied, and which pest control strategy and mixture of tactics should be used.

These strategies may include cultural, biological, chemical, or physical modifications of the environment to control plants, animals, and other organisms that cause agricultural, silvicultural, structural, aesthetic, or public health damage. The Sierra Club bases its pest management policy on the goals of:

  • Maintenance of healthy and diverse ecosystems
  • Use of sustainable methods of producing food and fiber
  • Protection of the health of the people of the Earth

In pursuit of these goals, we adopt the following principles:

  1. Pest management should be based on ecological principles and sound biological information. This includes reliance on organisms adapted to local conditions, controls limited to situations in which monitoring indicates that there is a pest problem that will cause unacceptable damage, and treatments chosen and timed to be most effective, least disruptive to natural controls, and least hazardous to humans and the environment.
  2. Use of toxic or biologically active substances or genetically altered organisms should be tightly regulated to prevent harm to people and natural and agricultural-silvicultural ecosystems.
  3. The public should be informed of the health hazards and economic costs that chemical and biological pest control methods pose at every step - manufacture, formulation, transport, use, residues on products, storage, and disposal. In addition, the public needs to be informed of alternative pest management strategies.
  4. The global air, water, and food supply should be free of harmful residues of pesticides.
  5. Disposal practices for pesticides and containers should not lead to contamination of land, air, or water.
  6. Corporations producing and marketing pesticides have an ethical responsibility to guard the health and safety of people and ecosystems.

In accordance with these goals and principles, the Sierra Club adopts the following specific polices, which apply to urban, forest, and agricultural areas both in the United States and internationally:

(1) The Sierra Club supports legislation and research promoting the use of sustainable methods of producing food and fiber, that is, methods that:

  • Maintain healthy relationships with unmanaged ecological communities.
  • Promote permanent pest management systems that can evolve with minimal interference from humans.
  • Preserve soil tilth and beneficial soil organisms.
  • Minimize soil erosion and nutrient loss.
  • Utilize resources so as to conserve energy and nonrenewable resources.

(2) Pesticides should be regulated as dangerous materials that play a last-resort role in pest management systems. This implies that:

  • Regulatory judgments concerning the need for a chemical should fully address alternative, nonchemical management strategies.

  • Sales and use of pesticides that pose a danger to the environment or human health should be restricted to minimize the danger or prohibited.

  • All pesticide users should be trained and required to apply pesticides with the safest available methods, without exposing people in the absence of their informed consent, and without contaminating water supplies or producing residues that persist beyond the need for the treatment.

  • Tolerances for pesticide residues should be set at lowest possible evels to protect the health of the most sensitive segments of the population.

  • There should be no public exposure through use of pesticides, pesticide residues, or byproducts of pesticides that cause cancer, birth defects, mutations, reproductive effects, or alter the immune system or behavior of nontarget organisms.

  • Before registering or reregistering any pesticide, the Environmental Protection Agency should have sufficient laboratory and field tests to evaluate risks to human health, other organisms, and land, air, and water resources.

  • Systems should be designed so that pesticide containers will be reused only for pesticides and not used for other purposes.

  • There should be a system for monitoring the health and environmental effects of pesticides in use to provide information to the public and direct feedback into the regulatory system.

(3) Comprehensive reforms should be implemented to give the public the right to know about pesticide hazards:

  • The public should have full access to information from all experiments done on registered, previously registered, and conditionally registered pesticides. This should include the objectives, methods, results, and significance of the testing. Tests should be done on pesticides, their separate ingredients (both active and supposedly inert), impurities, and degradation products.

  • Data regarding the effects of pesticide use on food, water, wildlife, vegetation, and human health should be published regularly.

  • Pesticide labels should be written in a way that is readable to prospective users, with internationally recognizable symbols. Labels, advertising, training materials, and sales information should provide information concerning long- and short-term effects on human health as well as possible damage to the environment.

  • People in the vicinity of sites where pesticides are manufactured, used, stored, or disposed of should be informed of the activity to allow them to avoid exposure.

  • Foods and other products should be labeled as practicable, with a history of their exposure to pesticides, enabling freemarket choices to be made by those who must avoid, or choose to avoid, contamination.

(4) Global environmental protection is every country's responsibility. In today's world economy, pest management polices in one country can affect the health of people and the environment in other countries. Therefore:

  • International manufacture and trade of pesticides should be regulated by international agreements.

  • The United States and other pesticide producing countries should not permit the export of pesticides which have been prohibited for use in their own countries. All pesticides produced in the U.S., including those intended for export, should be registered by the EPA to ensure that the decisions to permit their use can be based on adequate health and environmental impact data.

  • Export approval for severely restricted pesticides should be withheld until the prospective importing country has acknowledged receipt of information regarding the hazards of the pesticide, specifically requested its export, and demonstrated that it maintains a pesticide regulatory system for protection of public health and the environment at least as restrictive as that of the United States.

  • The U.S. government should prohibit the sale of pesticides to any country that exports products containing unacceptable residue levels of those pesticides. Furthermore, the U.S. government should increase the effectiveness of programs designed to prevent the import and sale of products containing pesticide residues above tolerance levels, and should cancel tolerances still in existence for pesticides that have been canceled for use on crops.

  • The governments of exporting nations should extend all possible influence under relevant international agreements and their national regulatory systems to prevent uncontrolled trade in pesticides. The government should provide assistance for research, education, and training programs regarding pesticide hazards, safe use, treatment for poisoning, pest management alternatives, and residue testing techniques.

  • The U.S. government should join in adherence to the 1984 United Nations Resolution on Protection Against Products Harmful to Health and the Environment, as have all other developed countries.

  • The U.S. government should exert its leadership in relevant international organizations, such as the World Bank, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and World Health Organization (WHO) to influence the procurement, trade, and use of pesticides and to allocate resources for non-chemical, least hazardous pest management procedures and practices.

  • The governments of the pesticide producing countries should establish guidelines on the role and responsibilities of the pesticide industry, especially multinational corporations operating in developing countries, to assure safe manufacture, transport, storage, use, and disposal of pesticides. These corporations should be required to adhere to environmental and safety standards no less stringent than are required in their home countries.

  • The government and all appropriate institutions including multi- and bilateral development institutions regional research institutes, universities, and nongovernmental organizations should move rapidly to carry out research and implement biological, physical and cultural pest management practices, while minimizing the use of hazardous chemicals.

(5) To promote these goals, principles, and policies, the Sierra Club will:

  • Educate and activate citizens and collaborate with other organizations to form a broad base of support for this policy.
  • Work toward the adoption of laws, regulations, and international agreements to implement this policy.
  • Enter into litigation if necessary to achieve these goals.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, November 9, 1985


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