Making sense of difficult information

On August 31 we held an informational meeting to discuss our board’s decision to proceed towards herbicide treatment of Lake Fairlee next summer (2010).  We reminded all attending that we take seriously our role as stewards of the lake, and that the decision to hire an outside consultant to conduct an initial survey was made reluctantly and after considerable discussion.  We emphasized that we (board members) are not scientists, and are struggling to learn all we can about chemical treatments and alternatives.

There is an abundance of information available about the herbicide triclopyr.  (Ann Bove would remind me here that we are not assured of getting a permit for herbicide application, and we don’t even know which herbicide will be recommended)  Only a little of it is original research – most simply summarizes scientific data collected by others.  This information is available from a various different sources, and often reaches a variety of conclusions.

Most of the published scientific research on triclopyr was conducted by the manufacturer (Dow Agrosciences) pursuant to their EPA registration.  This is unfortunate, but typical.  Research is expensive, and most easily funded by a large company with an expectation of future profits.  Most of the information about triclopyr found on the web is based on this original data, digested and explained for non-scientists.

One contributor to the meeting suggested that we look at a website called “pesticide.org,” which contains a factsheet about the herbicide triclopyr, and that we include a link to it in this blog.  As promised, I include the link HERE.  I feel compelled to add few words of caution.

The pesticide.org website is maintained by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides [NCAP].  This is an outfit dedicated to reducing pesticide use, and “keeping [us] informed about pesticide hazards . . . .”  We applaud their mission, and agree that pesticides are overused and sometimes dangerous.  Nonetheless their “factsheet” on triclopyr seems selective in its choice of facts, and slanted in its conclusions.  The facts it includes are true, but they are chosen selectively.

The pesticide.org factsheet was written in 2000.  The formulation of triclopyr we are considering was not released until later, and arguably is a safer formulation.  Renovate 3 contains the triethylamine salt of triclopyr, and references to the butoxyethyl ester of triclopyr in the factsheet may not be applicable.

In this blog I have tried to include links to sources that are understandable and reliable.  I have also looked for sites that are balanced.  The “Triclopyr Questions and Answers” from the State of Washington (LINK) is a good example. I can understand how someone who is vehemently against all use of chemicals might see this as slanted in favor of chemical use, just because it does not conclude that using triclopyr is always bad.

I remind all concerned that none of us wants to introduce an herbicide into the lake.  We agree that it would be preferable to find a non chemical alternative.  We believe that we have exhausted all other available alternatives, and that doing nothing would be unacceptable.  We examine each choice asking, “What is best for the lake?”  The wishes of our members and donors can be taken into account, but the welfare of the lake is our first concern.

I urge each reader to scrutinize these resources, and others, and to come to her own conclusions.

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