(Beyond Pesticides, June 28th 2012) The Canadian province of Manitoba is asking for public feedback on whether to ban the sale and/or use of cosmetic pesticides for lawn care. This request comes on the heels of a May 17 recommendation by a special committee in the Canadian provincial government of British Columbia (BC) not to enact an all-out ban on cosmetic pesticides. Currently, seven Canadian provinces have enacted pesticide regulation, each with varying degrees of restrictions.
The public has until October 1 to submit their comments on the ban to the Manitoba government. The province is providing guidance to the public through a paper titled Play it Safe, which outlines the background on the proposed ban, explores restriction options, and raises awareness about pesticide use on lawns. The paper makes note of the importance of using a precautionary approach to the sale and use of lawn care pesticides, acknowledging the potential harm these chemicals can cause to the environment and human health, especially those at increased risk, such as pregnant women and children. Environmental groups and public health organizations, including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), and The David Suzuki Foundation are all pushing the Manitoba government for a full ban on the sale and use of these toxic chemicals for lawn care.
British Columbia’s special committee recommendation comes as a disappointment to health and environmental advocacy groups. The proposed rules would restrict the use and sale of some cosmetic pesticides and expand public education programs, but stop short of sanctioning an all-out ban. Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Bill Bennett explains, “The majority of the committee does not think the scientific evidence, at this time, warrants an outright ban.” The committee’s conclusion is in opposition to overwhelming support from the public (over 70% of British Columbians supported the legislation) and scientific community, and the Liberal BC Premier’s explicit endorsement of the ban.
New Democrat Party (NDP) MLA Rob Fleming was incredulous in response to the news, saying, “We had an unprecedented level of public interest and participation for a legislative committee, reflecting a widespread consensus among the public and scientific community that the cosmetic use of pesticides pose an unnecessary health risk to children, pets and our water supply.”
The Canadian Cancer Society sent out a press release on the day of the committee’s decision. Barbara Kaminsky, CEO of Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon decried, “We waited years for the BC government to follow the lead of other provinces and BC municipalities, and this is the result? The report was slow in coming and is weak in content. It is disappointing overall.”
Advocacy groups are not giving up the fight though. CAPE Executive Director Gideon Forman proclaimed, “We will continue to urge the BC government to implement strong province-wide cosmetic pesticide legislation, similar to Ontario’s.”
Eliminating toxic pesticides is important in lawn and landscape management considering, contrary to the BC special committee’s conclusion, of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides: 14 are probable or possible carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage, and 27 are sensitizers and/or irritants. Other lawn chemicals like glyphosate (RoundUp) have also been linked to serious adverse chronic effects in humans. Imidacloprid, another pesticide growing in popularity, has been implicated in bee toxicity and the recent Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Across the U.S. many communities, school districts, and state policies are now following a systems approach that is designed to put a series of preventive steps in place that will solve pest (weed and insect) problems. This approach is based on three basic concepts: (i) natural, organic product where use is governed by soil testing, (ii) an understanding that the soil biomass plays a critical role in soil fertility and turf grass health, and (iii) specific and sound cultural practices. Communities that have recently taken steps to ban or limit pesticide use include the states of Connecticut and New York, Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, Cape Cod, over 30 communities in New Jersey, and Chicago’s City Parks.
Beautiful landscapes do not require toxic pesticides. Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes webpage provides information on pesticide hazards and information on organic management strategies. The site also provides an online training, Organic Land Care Basic Training for Municipal Officials and Transitioning Landscapers, to assist in going pesticide-free. With the training, landscapers can learn the practical steps to transitioning to a natural program. Or, you can order Pesticide Free Zone yard signs to display to your neighbors. For assistance in proposing a policy to your city council (or its equivalent), contact Beyond Pesticides at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.