Fields of Dreams Shattered with Baseball’s Endorsement of Chemical Lawn Care


(Beyond Pesticides, March 15, 2010)

A coalition of environmental groups is chastising in
a letter to Major League Baseball its new alliance with Scotts Miracle-Gro because it says the chemical and seed company undermines sound environmental values by promoting turf management programs that are unnecessarily chemical-intensive. Scotts introduced newly branded products, which it will promote with the logo of Major League Baseball, alongside its chemical “weed and feed” and insecticide products. Weed and feed products contain herbicides and synthetic fertilizers that are tied to adverse health and environmental effects.

In its letter to Major League Baseball, the coalition told officials that associating the organization with Scotts Miracle-Gro and allowing the company to use its name to promote a chemical-intensive philosophy to homeowners sends the wrong message —that toxic chemicals are necessary to have a beautiful green lawn. In fact, the coalition says homeowners are learning that turf can be managed effectively utilizing organic methods that are safer for children, families, and the environment. In this critical period of history when we are shifting to “green” practices around the home and in our communities, Major League Baseball can and should be an environmental leader, rather than advancing toxic products with well documented deleterious health and environmental impacts. Tim Brosnan, Executive Vice President of Business, to whom the letter was sent, has not responded as of this writing.

The coalition makes the following points:

1. The toxic chemicals being promoted are not needed for a beautiful lawn. The Scotts approach to turf management is dependent on chemical products it sells. Its 4-step program converts the home lawn to chemical dependency, including heavy reliance on hazardous herbicides, insecticides and synthetic fertilizers. However, lawns are best managed successfully without a reliance on these toxic chemicals with a program that focuses on cultural practices that address soil health, aeration, mowing height, proper organic fertilization, watering techniques, and appropriate grass varieties.

2. Major League Ballparks are currently different from home lawns and the same approach is not appropriate. While homeowners should select grass seed based on soil, light and local climatic conditions, ballparks choose seed selected for its ability to withstand high amounts of pesticide and fertilizer applications and frequent (often daily) care. Homeowners should focus on healthy soil to achieve a healthy lawn, whereas ballparks often contain artificial soil and drainage pipes below the field. In the home environment, mowing, watering and fertilizer inputs should be minimized as much as possible. This is especially true in an era when as much as a third of the nation may be under water restrictions at various times of year.

3. Pesticides are hazardous. Below ground, pesticides harm the microorganisms, beneficial insects and earthworms that are essential to maintaining healthy soil, and therefore, healthy turf. Pesticides also harm water bodies and groundwater. Above ground, pesticides harm all forms of life. The risks are higher when products containing pesticides are applied by unlicensed applicators.

4. Synthetic fertilizers are hazardous. Synthetic fertilizers also harm beneficial organisms in the soil and lead to undesirable conditions that restrict water and air movement in the soil. High nitrogen
fertilizers can disrupt the nutrient balance, accelerate turf growth, increase the need for mowing and contribute to thatch buildup. These fertilizers are also prone to leaching and runoff, which contaminates water above and below ground.

5. Children are especially vulnerable to adverse effects from pesticides. Because the home lawn is often the play space for children, and children are among the most vulnerable to toxic chemical exposure, chemical-intensive lawn management should be replaced with organic approaches. Exposure occurs as a result of direct contact with the treated lawn areas, chemical drift off the treated areas, and tracking and drifting inside of homes, which leaves residues on fabrics and surfaces. Scientific studies show that children face elevated rates of diseases associated with pesticide exposure and pesticides are linked to cancer, endocrine system disruption, neurological and immune system effects, asthma and respiratory effects, and behavioral and learning effects.

At a time when homeowners across the country and communities are looking at ways to adopt practices that are protective of the environment, the coalition believes that Major League Baseball, in aligning with Scotts, is out of step. The coalition is telling baseball that it should be leading efforts to help people green their homes and communities.

The coalition consists of 28 groups from around the country: Beyond Pesticides, Biological Urban Gardening Services, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Casco Baykeeper, Clean New York, Emerald Coastkeeper, For A Better Bronx, Friends of Casco Bay, Friends of the Earth, Galveston Baykeeper, Grassroots Environmental Education, Greenpeace, Healthy Lawn Team, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Maryland Pesticide Network, New Jersey Environmental Federation, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Oregon Toxics Alliance, Pesticide Action Network North America, Pesticide Watch, Pesticide-Free Zone, Project Ladybug,, Safer Pest Control Project, San Francisco Baykeeper, Sassafras Riverkeeper, Toxics Action Center, and Watershed Partnership, Inc.

For more information
on being a part of the growing organic lawn care movement, see Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns
and Landscapes program page