The details haven’t been announced, but Manitobans overwhelmingly support banning “cosmetic” pesticides, says the NDP government.
“More than 2,000 people participated in our consultations and more than 70 per cent of them were in favour of increased regulation,” said Gord Mackintosh, minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship. “The federal government also recognizes the need for stronger protection — in fact, they phased out ‘weed-and-feed’ products at the end of last year.”
Manitobans have been among the heaviest users of cosmetic pesticides, with 47 per cent of households using chemicals to keep their lawns and gardens weed free, according to Statistics Canada.
Legislation authorizing and giving details on the ban will be introduced this spring, said Mackintosh.
But many farmers predict it will have unintended consequences.
“We’re not just talking about the city of Winnipeg here, this applies to all urban areas, and that could be any residence that’s adjacent to a farm,” said Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers and a forage seed producer.
Dandelions and other weeds cause significant problems for forage seed producers, and need to be combated with herbicides.
“Ironically, this could potentially increase pesticide use in the province, rather than decrease it, because a yard that is a quarter acre is very little surface area compared to a quarter section of farmland, and it’s amazing how quickly weeds spread,” said Chorney.
However, proponents of the ban said they aren’t advocating people stop taking care of their lawns.
“We’re not saying let the weeds have a heyday on your lawn, you will need to do alternative things to control weeds like dandelions,” said Amanda Kinden, a volunteer organizer with Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Manitoba.
Many lawn-care companies now offer organic lawn and weed products, and the city of Portage la Prairie successfully gave up cosmetic pesticides a few years ago.
“Lawns are where people and pets have the most direct exposure to cosmetic pesticides and the new regulations will be focused on providing safer alternatives to current synthetic chemical pesticides – we know that there are products that are as effective and affordable,” said Mackintosh.
Any changes that may come will be phased in over at least a year, and will be accompanied by a public awareness campaign, he added.