Volume 94, Issue 5


Campaign mounting to ban cosmetic use of pesticides

Chemical in your food:
A case for organic produce

Campaign mounting to ban cosmetic use of pesticides

By Rachel Houlihan
Gazette Staff

After nearly losing his dog to pesticide poisoning, London Ward 3 councillor Bernie MacDonald said he wants the federal government to give municipalities the authority to control pesticide use.

Nightmares about people's personal experiences with pesticides are heard everywhere, MacDonald said. His pure bred show dog was paralyzed after its drinking water was accidentally contaminated.

"People need to realize what a danger pesticides can be," he said. While he is not condemning all lawn care businesses, MacDonald said he does want people to look at alternative methods of pest and weed control.

"There shouldn't be an outright ban," said Steve Foster, owner and operator of Enviro-Lawn, a lawn care business in London. Foster is concerned companies like his will suffer financially if pesticides are banned.

"These businesses supply a certain niche in the market," agreed Ray Lampman, regional pesticides officer for the Ministry of Environment. "My guess is that they would disappear if pesticides were banned."

Foster said his business would probably survive if pesticides were banned, because he offers natural lawn care. But most of his customers use a mix of natural methods and spot spraying of pesticides.

A recent report by the federal environment committee recommended the cosmetic use of pesticides on golf courses, lawns and parks be phased out over a five-year period. Last year, London City Council chose not to restrict pesticide use on private property because it lacked authority under Ontario's municipal law.

However this could change if a pesticide ban in Hudson, Quebec makes it through the Supreme Court of Canada. A victory could set a precedent for Ontario, leading to a challenge of the federal Pesticides Act.

"As it stands right now, the City has the right to ban pesticides on their own property, but not on private property," Lampman said. London has reduced spraying in many parks but does spray about five per cent of its land each year, he said

Foster said he is licensed and has to follow strict regulations set out by the Ministry of the Environment. The fine for violating a regulation can cost $25,000, even if it is the first offense. Foster said the average homeowner needs to be informed. "Homeowners are out in their bathing suits spraying their lawns," he said.

It is safer to have licensed and regulated professionals spray your lawn, explained Tom Delaney, executive vice-president for the Professional Lawn Care Association of America. "But customers do need to be educated so they can ask a company the right questions," Delaney said.

About 40 Canadian lawn care businesses are members of the association. "People have decided that the benefits outweigh the risks," Delaney explained.

MacDonald said he does not agree with Delaney and thinks the health effects will come out eventually. He said the federal government must have enough evidence to support this idea or else it would not be looking at the issue.

Federally approved pesticides are safe when applied according to the regulations. "Ontario has very stringent licensing requirements for businesses," Delaney said. "You should take comfort in that."

Lampman said the issues around the pesticide ban go much deeper than just the economic and health implications. "The whole problem is with our set of values, not with the regulations. Our perception is that the perfect lawn is weed free."

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