In this three-part series, organic cannabis grower and entrepreneur Travis Lane delves into the world of pesticide use in the cannabis industry and beyond. Check back for part three next Friday (February 2). Click here for part one.
By Travis Lane
Many growers are like I was as a teen: they simply don’t have any idea what they are doing is wrong. This problem applies equally to the folks down the road that use herbicides once a week on the lawn, or the family that whips out the insecticide every time they see a spider.
Pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides are everywhere, and people use them far too casually. This is true in industrialized farming, home gardening, and in-house use. Have you ever noticed that half the shelves in the garden center contain pesticides and herbicides?
Awareness is beginning to spread, as worries about glysophate and neonicotinoids have caused a great deal of discussion in recent years. Unfortunately, these products are so widely used that any attempted restriction will be fought in the realm of international trade courts and political back rooms.
Let’s not forget that the manufacturers of these products include the giants of the agrochemical, genetic modification, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical industries like Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dow Chemicals, BASF, and DuPont.
As we begin ask what happens to these toxins once they have served their killer purpose, we are forced explore the problems of bio-magnification, and the long-term consequences of flooding the environment with reactive and systemic poisons.
Our massive increase in overall use of these toxins is a major environmental issue. We are using far more of these substances than we have in the past, and we continue to remain unaware of potentially disastrous long-term effects.
DDT is one example that can serve as a warning. It came into use as a pesticide after World War I, and it was eventually outlawed in the U.S. in 1972. Rachel Carson‘s ground-breaking book Silent Spring had a lot to do with this, as she told the story of how DDT could infect the entire food supply, and how the toxin would then gradually accumulate in the fatty tissues of birds and mammals.
Because both DDT and one of its major metabolites, DDE, are stored in fats, they stay in animals’ systems for a long time, and can even be transferred from mother to fetus.
Over 40 years later, millions of people are still living with the effects, both known and unknown. A vast majority of people tested by the Center for Disease Control today have remnant DDE in their system, even if they were born in the 1980s.
The ban on DDT happened after a huge public outcry that also led to the eventual founding of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States. Even so, it is clear that not every pesticide gets the same attention from the government, even when people end up dead.
In the summer of 1985 over 2,000 people fell ill throughout North America, with six deaths occurring among the sick. It was soon discovered that a pesticide called aldicarb had caused the illness, which made people’s heartrate slow, and made them vomit and twitch. The poisoning had happened through tainted watermelons.
Aldicarb was not approved for use on watermelons, so the EPA started an investigation into the poison and its use. A long investigation. A very long investigation.
Twenty-five years later, in 2010, the EPA finally declared that it would phase out the use of aldicarb by 2015, because it is harmful to children.
That’s right, it took them 25 years to figure out that a poison that had already killed six people was bad for kids. Then they gave the manufacturers of the pesticide, Bayer, a five-year grace period to stop distributing it.
How much damage was done in the meantime?
Massive companies like Monsanto and Bayer are guilty of deceiving the public about the safety of their products. In fact, they are experts at doing it, and they have convinced a great many people that these products pose no risk to our health or our environment.
It is not only our government’s responsibility to regulate these corporate monsters, it is also up to the population to educate themselves. If we continue using these toxins with such reckless abandon, where will our environment end up?
Down The Drain: No One Will Find It There
When the folks using the herbicides on their lawn are done, and follow up with a fungicide on the deck, where does what they spray end up? In general, it runs off into storm drains, or soaks into the soil.
What if there is leftover spray? In some cases, it can stay in the bottle for some time. Harsher chemicals, like Avid, Forbid, or Nova 40, do not have a shelf life. They must be diluted and sprayed, and any excess disposed of.
There are guidelines for household pesticide use and disposal, and one of the primary rules is not to dump the left overs down the drain.
Because these cannabis-related products are illegal to sell and not meant for home use, the illegal grower might have no information other than what the guy at the hydroponics store told them. The bottles don’t come labelled with directions for use or safety warnings.
Just like the home gardener, some will do their research before they ask an unqualified clerk for their opinion, and others will not.
As a result, some might dump these chemicals down the drain in ignorance.
On the other hand, these are the most effective poisons available today. Most growers know exactly what they are doing when they spray these cocktails of death all over their ‘medicine’. Nowadays, these can be bought virtually anonymously online, so if they dump them down the drain when they are done, no one will have a clue.
If they had the social and environmental conscience to drive the leftovers to the HazMat disposal facility, I like to think they would avoid the use of illegal systemic bug killers in the first place.
It is the growers that spray these chemicals knowing exactly why they should not, and then dispose of them in ways that are a risk to public safety, that make all cannabis cultivators look like uncaring criminals.
They need to be cut out of any legal system, like a tumor caused by overexposure to organophosphates.