Chemical industry “astroturf” group pads membership with agribusinesses – even though TSCA doesn’t regulate ag chemicals!

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

The chemical industry’s fake grassroots group formed to feign broad support for its version of reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the Coalition for Chemical Safety, issued a press release today touting that it’s surpassed 150 members.

I blogged earlier about how some of the small businesses it has enlisted apparently weren’t told about the Coalition backers’ actual positions on toxic chemicals.

Now a review of the 150 members that have allowed the Coalition to meet its latest “milestone” reveals it has supplemented unwitting small businesses with dozens of agriculture-related companies and associations – despite the fact that TSCA doesn’t regulate ag chemicals!

Who knew that growing astroturf requires pesticides??

At least 40 of the Coalition’s members are clearly in the farm, landscaping or seed business – begging the question of whether they’ve been attracted to sign up by the Coalition backers wrongly claiming TSCA reform might lead to bans on pesticides.

More generally, the Coalition’s release makes clear it’s more than willing to play the “chemical ban” card to scare up members.  One choice quote:  “The Virginia State Police Association (VSPA) joined the Virginia Coalition for Chemical Safety to help ensure that our troopers have access to the very best safety equipment available,” says VSPA’s Executive Director.

Of course, real TSCA reform is not about halting the use of chemicals – it’s about driving the replacement of dangerous chemicals with safe ones.  It’s about integrating the heretofore largely missing ingredient of health and environmental safety – alongside traditional considerations of performance, cost and consumer needs – into all decisions made about which chemicals and products our nation makes, uses and sells.  It’s about ensuring the market has robust information needed to inform those decisions, and government has the authority to distinguish between safe and unsafe chemicals.

If the Coalition is serious about TSCA reform, it ought to embrace all aspects of the platform of a real grassroots coalition calling for comprehensive reform – Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families – which doesn’t depend on misleading or scaring potential members to get them to sign up.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted February 2, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Actually, let's clear up an error in fact. Agrichemicals that are synthesized are covered by TSCA. Natural fertilizers are not. Pesticides are covered under FIFRA, but the intermediaries used to make them are covered by TSCA. In other words, there is a clear Agribusiness interest in this issue.

    But, if it was your intention to tell folks in agribusiness that they should just keep their mouths shut while the professionals handle this – that, in my view, is not a winning approach.

    It is the view of the Coalition for Chemical Safety that if you want TSCA reform that puts safety first but also promotes American innovation (such as in the development of those safe new chemicals you mentioned) and protects American jobs then you are welcome to join us. If you think that's a wrongheaded approach, then please don't. (something we address here: http://blog.coalitionforchemsafety.com/2010/02/who-is-ccs/)

  2. Posted February 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Dear Joe:

    Nice to hear from you again!

    First, a bit into the weeds (no pun intended). You're correct to point out that some chemicals that are not pesticides but are used in their manufacture fall under TSCA. But only partly so: For example, EPA has exempted such chemicals from a number of TSCA requirements, including any requirement to report data on their processing and use.

    Still, I'll accept your point that pesticide makers have a clear interest in TSCA. But the majority of members to which I referred in my post are multiple steps removed from pesticide companies. I highly doubt the Indiana Lawn and Landscape Association would have gotten very worked up about the threat of TSCA reform unless they were scared into thinking it might affect their ability to continue to use Roundup or some other pesticide!

    This could all be cleared up, of course, if you would simply publish your recruiting materials: What exactly are you telling lawn services and landscaping companies they need to worry about in TSCA reform? And just what tortuous scenario are you weaving to convince police associations that better chemicals management will compromise their safety on the job?

    There's that theme again I raised in earlier posts about your Coalition: the lack of transparency. Regarding my intention, I have been very clear in each post I've done about your group that the chemical industry — and I'll extend that here to pesticide producers — has every right to its opinion. I'm not trying to shut anyone's mouth — I just want them to show their face.

    Speaking of which, are you still not willing to say who you're working for? And who's bankrolling the Coalition?

    I strongly believe that a toothless TSCA has actually impeded American innovation toward safer chemicals, by allowing the same chemicals in use decades ago to remain in use today without understanding, let alone seeking to reduce, any potential dangers they pose.

    As for caring about protecting American jobs, I can't help but point to the voluntary mass exodus of the American chemical manufacturing sector — and its jobs — to Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. That trend has been underway for many years and is only projected to continue. And it has nothing to do with chemical or environmental regulation.

    The European Union — which represents the largest segment of the chemical industry, much larger than the U.S. — recently enacted sweeping chemical reforms (its REACH Regulation). While much of the US industry routinely trashes REACH, it's worth noting it was developed jointly by the Environment and Enterprise Directorates of the European Commission. A major motivating factor was to enhance the competitiveness of the EU chemical industry and move it toward a more sustainable footing.

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