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The 4 Things You Need To Know About Drifting Pesticides

Key points to remember from WFIU's series on pesticide drift.

airplane

Photo: Jay Oliver/UGA College of Ag

An airplane applies pesticide on a field in Tifton, Georgia.

From July 30 through Aug. 1, WFIU aired a series of reports explaining how chemicals meant to control bugs and weeds can become general agents of destruction when the wind carries them to the wrong places. Here are four key facts from our stories — important points to remember about why drifting pesticides are dangerous:

  1. Drifting pesticides can make people sick. Larry Edwards of Franklin learned this first-hand when he was sprayed by a crop duster in his own backyard (the plane was supposed to be spraying his neighbor’s field). Read more about Edwards — and one pesticide-application company that’s still in operation despite its employees accruing multiple drift violations — in the third story of the series.
  2. Every year, farmers lose crops — and money — to drift-induced damage. Tomato farmer Brett Middlesworth saw a tenth of his yield damaged when Roundup herbicide wafted onto his fields. Containing drift remains a persistent problem for regulators, as the first story of the series explains.
  3. Produce growers are worried the drift problem is about to get much worseThat’s because if new crops genetically engineered by the Monsanto Company are approved, farmers will likely start using much greater quantities of an herbicide called dicamba during fruit and vegetable growing seasons. Dicamba doesn’t play nicely with crops like melons and tomatoes. Red Gold Incorporated’s Steve Smith — interviewed in the second story of the series — says the way dicamba is formulated, it can drift from treated fields even days after spraying.
  4. Pesticide drift is illegal. Applicators, by law, must take steps to prevent it. If you think pest-control chemicals have wafted onto your property, you should call the authorities. In Indiana, that means getting in touch with the Office of the Indiana State Chemist, whose website includes guidelines for reporting a suspected instance of drift.

Again, find Part I of our series here. Part II is here. Part III is here.

Sehvilla Mann

Sehvilla Mann has been reporting for WFIU since summer 2012, when she began working toward her master's degree in journalism at Indiana University. Her work has won three awards from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. A native of Urbana, Illinois, she is not sure she understands hills but enjoys looking at the ones around Bloomington.

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