Expert PESTICIDE Scientist | Michael Newton | Letter: Story on concern about forestry weed killers displays bias

An environmental reporter, Jeff Barnard, is given front-page headlines (Gazette-Times, Dec. 16) with an advocacy group’s concern about forestry weed killers. It is partly the reporting sequence, but it also displays pointless editorial bias by stimulating public concern about well-published regulated substances.

The article  provided information out of context, implying health risks when chemicals used at exaggerated rates on an unspecified 3 to 4 percent of a large forest area.

If there were risks, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on toxicology and exposure would have found higher residues on roadsides, utilities, croplands and lawns, where 99 percent of these products are used each year.

Yet the reported products have long histories of safe use close to humans, as on mega-corn crops, nurseries, lawns!

Reporting about unspecified, previously discussed harmless levels of these substances is misplaced in a feature story following contra-indicated government research. In this case, state health and two or more federal health/pesticide agencies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, only to find that forest uses of herbicides do not lead to increased exposure among citizens. Why give space to advocacy journalism?

I have led and published extensive research on human and wildlife exposure from forest chemicals at OSU. Advocacy groups have complained before, apparently without merit, but at great public expense. Maybe my favorite daily will seek Oregon State University or Oregon Department of Agriculture sources to vet such reports, and avoid misleading lay opinions on well-known subjects? Better, hold writers to that standard.

Michael Newton


Professor Emeritus

OSU College of Forestry

via Letter: Story on concern about forestry weed killers displays bias.