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Ore. County Pesticide Ban Model for Fight Against Farm Chemicals

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A group of Lincoln County residents wanted to ban aerial use of pesticides, because its research determined aerial spraying was the most harmful. (Rio Davidson/Lincoln County Community Rights)
A group of Lincoln County residents wanted to ban aerial use of pesticides, because its research determined aerial spraying was the most harmful. (Rio Davidson/Lincoln County Community Rights)
 By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR - Producer, Contact
September 28, 2018

NEWPORT, Ore. – A grassroots effort in a seaside Oregon county last year could serve as an example for how other communities can beat large corporate interests.

Last year, Lincoln County voters banned the aerial application of pesticides, despite opposition backing from companies like Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences that totaled nearly a $500,000. According to documents obtained by online publication The Intercept, pesticide-industry group CropLife America made the campaign its center of attention.

Rio Davidson, a solar panel contractor and a member of Lincoln County Community Rights – the group that wrote the ban, says the region's history of effects from pesticides helped overcome long financial odds.

"We were a bunch of committed locals that had seen these harms over 30 years, and we were here to kind of help guide the community along to a better, healthy way of living that's going to be better for our children, our wildlife and our watershed," says Davidson.

Scientific research has linked pesticides to cancer, miscarriages and other health effects. Many farmers in the area were opposed to this measure, because they said it would hurt their business.

Maria Sause is the secretary of the board of directors of Lincoln County Community Rights and retired. Sause says gave her a lot of time to dedicate to this campaign.

For Sause, this initiative was about more than pesticides. She believes there's an imbalance in the legal system that weighs justice toward corporations.

"We are a movement that works to put people's fundamental rights, like the right to safety and health, before corporate rights,” says Sause. “And in our times, our legal system really puts corporate rights above people's."

Davidson says just six people were at the core of this campaign. He thinks it's possible to replicate what happened in Lincoln County with a small group of committed individuals.

"You can organize and you can make this difference in your community, even against all the monied interests, but it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of time," says Davidson.

More than 150 localities across the country have restricted pesticide use in their jurisdictions.

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