The Manitoba government has moved forward on its pledge to introduce legislation banning the use of synthetic chemical pesticides on school, daycare and hospital grounds, as well as on lawns.
The legislation, which is expected to take effect in 2015, does not affect golf courses, agriculture or forestry, but cosmetic pesticide use will be restricted on patios, sidewalks and play-fields.
Outlining the new legislation, Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh emphasized that it doesn’t mean an end to lawn care or weed management.
“It is not a matter of to spray or not to spray, but rather what you spray on your lawn,” said Mackintosh, adding that the new regulations won’t ban all pesticides, but will require the use of “lower-risk” options when it comes to weed removal.
Although the cosmetic ban on synthetic pesticides doesn’t extend to agriculture, Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) are concerned it will result in an influx of weeds from urban areas.
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“In those areas (that have bans), what we’ve seen as a result is widespread weed infestations in urban areas, we’ve seen product misuse, product being brought in from the U.S. or other provinces in unmarked containers, with no training from retailers,” said KAP president Doug Chorney. “We fear that this is not really accomplishing anything and we’ll end up with more negative consequences as a result.”
He added that the organization had made a submission to the provincial government in the hopes of “a science-based approach” to pesticide restrictions, noting that Health Canada has approved all lawn pesticides currently registered for use.
However, some doubt the value of Health Canada’s seal of approval.
Gideon Forman, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said Health Canada approves products based on industry-provided information, which he says is a conflict of interest.
“The fact that Health Canada has approved them just follows that they’re legal, it doesn’t follow that they’re safe,” he said. “There are lots of products on the market that government says are legal — cigarettes are the best example — which are far from safe. DDT used to be approved by the government and now we know how harmful DDT is.”
Studies here and abroad have also linked pesticide use with cancers and neurological impairment, such as attention deficit disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and birth defects, Forman said.
Six other provinces and nearly 200 municipalities already have some type of restriction in place when it comes to cosmetic pesticides.
Minister Mackintosh said the province will provide information on pest control and alternatives to synthetic pesticides as the legislation comes into effect. There will also be a one-year grace period for homeowners.
High-risk noxious weeds, poisonous or invasive plants can still be targeted with synthetic pesticides under the new law, he added.
For its part, KAP says it will continue to work with government to reduce the risk of weed incursions, but remains disappointed with the ban.
“I think a logical first step would be to say, ‘OK, only licensed applicators and commercial applicators in high-population areas will be allowed to use these products because we know they’ll be using them properly.’ That would be the best way to protect the public from misuse, an outright ban is a pretty harsh step,” Chorney said.