Farmers and pesticide manufacturers are lining up against a proposed ban on cosmetic pesticides in Manitoba as the Oct. 1 deadline for public comment on the issue approaches.
Even though agriculture, forestry and golf courses would be exempt if the province proceeds with a ban, Keystone Agricultural Producers president Doug Chorney said restricting cosmetic use would cause the public to question the safety of food produced using the same products.
That question is already being asked.
“All this talk about residential bans upsets me because we use far less then any farmer,” Rob Menard wrote last week in response to a Winnipeg Free Press story on the proposed ban. “We should be going after them for their bad farming practice!!! Its (sic) their fault for the state of our lakes!!!!!”
Someone named Striker added: “And farmers use a much stronger concentrate that is not available to consumers.”
Both KAP and CropLife Canada stress the Pest Management Review Agency (PMRA) only approves the use of pesticides determined to be safe.
“Before a pesticide is allowed to be used or sold in Canada, it must undergo a rigorous scientific assessment process, which provides reasonable certainty that no harm, including chronic effects such as cancer, will occur when pesticides are used according to label directions,” PMRA’s website states. “Under this pre-market approval process, results from more than 200 types of scientific studies must be submitted to determine if the pesticide would cause any negative effects to people, animals, birds, insects, plants, as well as on the soil and in the water.”
The fact that the Manitoba government doesn’t intend to restrict pesticides used for food production proves a ban on urban pesticides is political, according to Pierre Petelle, CropLife Canada’s vice-president of chemistry.
“It’s truly not a health issue,” he said in an interview. “This is politics at its worst. When they try to dress it up as a risk to health or the environment it falls flat because it doesn’t correlate to their approach on other uses.”
Petelle also criticized the Manitoba government’s consultation paper on cosmetic pesticides, saying it borders on “unprofessional” and is “biased and misleading.”
“I joke that if you read that document and still support lawn pesticides you must be crazy,” he said.
Even though cosmetic pesticides make up only four per cent of the Canadian pesticide market, a ban would create an investment chill, according to Petelle. At least two new active ingredients, which he would not name, have not been introduced to Canada because of bans elsewhere in the country.
The discussion document quotes the Canadian Cancer Society as supporting a ban.
“While the connection between pesticides and cancer isn’t conclusive at the moment, we are very concerned about the growing body of evidence suggesting pesticides may increase the risk of several different types of cancers. We concluded that since cosmetic use of pesticides has no known health benefits and has the potential to cause harm, we would advocate for a ban on the use and sale of pesticides for this purpose.”
Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh was unavailable to comment at press time, but said in an interview in February that many doctors and scientists agree precautions are needed.
A Manitoba government official defended the discussion document in an email saying it was prepared using peer-reviewed data from nationally recognized sources including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian College of Family Physicians.
“The document is a tool that allows Minister Mackintosh to engage Manitobans in discussions on how best to address the use of cosmetic pesticides on lawns and other green spaces where people may be exposed to those chemicals,” the official wrote. “The minister has been clear that any proposed regulatory changes coming out of these consultations will be specific to cosmetic lawn pesticides.”
Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Manitoba, a coalition of health and environmental groups and advocates, has an online petition asking for a cosmetic pesticide ban.
“By definition, cosmetic pesticides are unnecessary,” coalition spokeswoman Anne Lindsey said in a news release. “Yet they are linked with a range of serious health and environmental problems, including asthma. It’s time to get these poisons off the shelf and out of our environment.”