Consultations on a possible cosmetic pesticide ban have now wrapped up, but one farm group is wondering if they will have any impact.
Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh suggested a ban could come into effect next year, following a press conference just prior to the October deadline for submissions held by Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Manitoba.
“The minister has come out on the record and said changes are coming before the consultation process even ended,” said Doug Chorney. “Apparently he has already made his mind up, and that is a concern for us.”
The Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) president said his organization hadn’t yet submitted its final submission to the public consultation process when the statement was made.
“We spent a lot of time getting a really meaningful submission together, and I really feel disappointed,” he said.
A spokesman for Mackintosh said the minister has been clear that the application of agricultural pesticides will not be impacted by any proposed regulatory changes coming out of Manitoba’s cosmetic lawn pesticides consultations.
“The minister has engaged a variety of Manitoba’s agricultural groups in discussions on how best to address the use of cosmetic pesticides including the Keystone Agricultural Producers, the Manitoba Weed Supervisors, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, and Land-scape Manitoba,” said the spokesman.
Chorney said that may be the case, but that those consultations were incomplete when the minister commented on the issue.
KAP is concerned that a ban on cosmetic pesticides in Manitoba will negatively impact farmers, particularly forage seed producers, by resulting in a greater number of weeds infiltrating crops.
A forage seed producer himself, Chorney said urban encroachment in many areas means dandelions are a real concern, along with other pests.
“There is an economic impact for producers,” he said.
But Amanda Kinden, a volunteer organizer with Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Manitoba, said the goal of a ban isn’t to let weeds run roughshod over the lawns of Manitoba.
“The chemicals and the pesticides are a quick fix, but people really need to take care of their lawns and build up the health of their soil, so the grass can be hardy and out compete the weeds,” said Kinden. “We’re not saying that people should just let the weeds come in and take over.”
Pointing to a report published by the Ontario College of Family Physicians, Kinden said exposure to pesticides has been linked to health concerns ranging from cancer and Parkinson’s disease, to autism and attention deficit disorder. Those concerns outweigh issues of convenience in lawn care, she said.
Some producers also share those health concerns.
“I’m in support of the cosmetic ban, with the caveat that… licensed operators are good to go,” said Paul Gregory of Interlake Forage Seeds.
The organic seed producer and agronomist said there will always be a need for pesticides in agriculture, but that lessoning the overall pesticide load by limiting the use to licensed, knowledgeable individuals is a step in the right direction.
But Chorney said banning pesticides in one context and not another, may lead to confusion among consumers.
“You create the false doubt in the public, that somehow our food is not safe,” he said, adding a ban would also negate the work done by Health Canada in registration of pesticides.
Six Canadian provinces already ban the use of cosmetic pesticides.