Controversy over common herbicide

Some common herbicides produced and marketed by Dow AgroSciences cause significant financial harm to composting operations, according to the GrassRoots Recycling Network. The North American network of waste reduction activists and professionals promoting producer responsibility also accuses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of virtually closing the door for public comments on this important issue.

The increasingly widespread use of a particularly persistent herbicide made by Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company has allegedly caused taxpayers of Spokane, Washington to pay $950,000 to buy the city out of a contract with a composting company whose product was contaminated with clopyralid, the active ingredient in Dow herbicides like Confront.

Compost contaminated with clopyralid residues have been found in several other states and cities. Compost made from grass clippings cut from clopyralid-treated lawns has severely stunted certain food plants to which the compost is applied.

According to Bill Sheehan, executive director of the GrassRoots Recycling Network, Dow’s toxic products not only kill weeds, they are killing financially successful compost programs that keep thousands of tonnes of organic material out of landfills. The network has led the grassroots effort demanding that Dow follow the precautionary principle and remove products from use until they can be proven safe.

Recently, however, in an effort to preempt a stronger state ban in California, Dow AgroSciences asked U.S. EPA to be allowed to simply add a warning to product labels cautioning commercial users not to apply the herbicide on turf that could be composted. That action is not open to public comment, according to EPA. Dow also asked EPA to delete application of the product on "residential turf" as an approved use. On August 28, the EPA published public notice of the proposed deletion action, then agreed with Dow’s request to shorten the public comment period. On September 20, EPA issued a correction in the Federal Register that ends the public comment period on September 27.

According to Susan Antler, executive director of The Composting Council of Canada, clopyralid is not approved for residential use products in Canada.

For more information contact Bill Sheehan at 706-613-7121 or visit

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