A group representing the provincial landscaping industry is reacting strongly to comments made earlier this week by Transportation and Works Minister Tom Hedderson concerning the reasons the provincial government banned the cosmetic use of certain pesticides.
“It’s a slap in the face to people within the industry — the professionals in the industry,” said Boyd Loveless, chairman for lawn-care professionals on Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador’s board of directors.
According to a story published by VOCM, Hedderson said Wednesday that a ban on the use of certain pesticides for cosmetic lawn care purposes was not implemented this year for health reasons. Instead, he said it was because spraying was overused improperly and that its use was getting out of hand.
Loveless, who operates the company Nutri-Lawn out of Torbay, said lawn-care professionals receive training through the Department of Environment and Conservation and are required to study materials and write an exam.
“They’re trained by (Hedderson’s) colleagues, so basically it’s a slap in the face to us and a slap in the face to them, because if the products weren’t banned for health reasons, why then was it banned?”
The issue of pesticide use became news again within the last week over the use of Tordon 101 along provincial highways to control vegetation in areas where brush cutting has taken place to improve visibility and reduce moose-vehicle collisions.
Tordon 101 contains the active ingredient 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), one of five pesticides banned for cosmetic use in the province.
Exceptions have been made for what government calls non-cosmetic use, including golf courses, agriculture and forestry use, and road and infrastructure maintenance.
Speaking with reporters Thursday at the Confederation Building, Hedderson said he has nothing but the utmost respect for the professionals who have worked with such products in Newfoundland and Labrador, including those who currently apply Tordon 101 along the highways.
“As a minister, I’ve got a great level of comfort, because these same professionals work for my department in carrying out the spraying program, and I have all the faith in the world (in) what they are doing,” said Hedderson. “They know what they’re doing, they know how to do it and they’re doing it very successfully.”
Hedderson went on to say that while the use of Tordon 101 along provincial highways helps make them safer for motorists, spraying lawns with pesticides such as 2,4-D is not something he considers to be a “necessary use” when the intention is to simply have “a nice looking lawn.”
He added if such a product is used incorrectly and manages to find its way into sensitive areas, such as bodies of water, that can have a negative impact.
“We’re doing it all in the interest, again, of good health and safety,” said the minister.
Karen Linfield, manager of pesticides control with the Department of Environment and Conservation, said Tordon 101 has always been a commercial product and has never been made available to the public for residential use.
“When we allow these programs to be conducted, we only permit people who have written and passed an examination. They’re certified, and companies who have a certain level of responsibility — these companies have to carry a certain amount of insurance, (and) they provide quite a number of pieces of information to us before we allow our program to be undertaken.”
Loveless believes the decision to implement the lawn-care ban was a political one.
He notes that the product has Health Canada approval.
“We’ve got local politicians, provincial politicians, making decisions based on what — political science or real science?”
If the government’s concern with the use of the banned pesticides was not health related, Loveless suggests it should have consulted with the industry and taken an integrated pest management approach whereby products would only be applied when necessary.
“They should have consulted with the professionals that are trained to apply these products and follow the Health Canada regulations,” he said.
While Loveless said it is possible the minister may have only meant to target the improper application of pesticides by homeowners in his statement to VOCM, he added if that was the case, the government should have simply removed the product from store shelves instead of issuing an outright ban.
“They’ve attacked a small industry within Newfoundland and Labrador. They’ve put employees’ lives in jeopardy. Personally, if I thought I was going to harm any one of my four children, I wouldn’t be using it.”