The most recent changes to the pesticide regulations in the province were concentrated at lawn and garden pest control products. The lack of knowledge among homeowners regarding safe and appropriate use of pesticides was a contributor to the ban of products containing a specific ingredient. It is important to note that there has never been a poisoning reported in either Canada or the U.S. resulting from a residential or commercial lawn being treated properly by a professional applicator. The majority of pesticide poisonings involving children occur in the home or in the homes of friends and relatives, and because products were not stored securely, allowing young children to gain access (Northern Exposure: Acute Pesticide Poisonings in Canada; 2007; David Suzuki Foundation).
Landscape Newfoundland & Labrador (LNL) understands that there are individuals in the general public that have concerns about the use of any pesticide. Some are inciting fear through the publication of incomplete information. Yet there is a strong, silent group within the general public that believes in the use of products as a tool in protecting their green spaces. The latter may not continue to remain silent as allergies flare up and insects and other toxic species infest their green spaces and there is no lawful remedy due to a ban that concentrates on product vs. the proper use and overall net impact. Industry working with government to better educate and control the use of these tools will have a greater result in our objective to have a better environment. Through joint efforts we can then regulate the proper use of these products in the same way prescription medication and other products are sold.
LNL believes that the basis on which some of the decisions were made during development of the new regulations were misplaced. Ultimately, the Department of Environment and Conservation wishes to reduce the amount of chemicals in our environment, not for health reasons as stated, but as a result of some other external pressures. Our industry confidently believes that we can work collaboratively with the department to reduce the impact of these products, while improving the environment and health of the living organisms that constitute our great province.
The Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency classifies the pest control products in question as “non-essential” or “cosmetic.” These terms were used to separate primary use in primary agriculture versus primary use in lawns and gardens. Yet these products are still consumed in primary production to assist farmers address broad leaf weeds and in cultivation practices. The herbicides used in our environment for lawn and gardens constitute less than one per cent of pesticide use in this country, while the vast majority is used in the production of our foods. Thus, the argument that government has made is accurate; Health Canada regulated products are safe for our consumption.
Therefore, if products containing 2,4-D were not banned for health reasons, we can assume that Newfoundland and Labrador wishes to ensure that the environment
is maintained pristinely. As such, industry recommends that we create a government-industry working group to better serve our environment with sound science and a reasonable approach. The minister of Environment and Conservation provides the training and licensing for pesticide professionals and our industry provides valuable services to assist and reduce the impact of herbicides to the environment, by applying only as needed, when needed, if needed, as part of an integrated pest management strategy. Industry involvement and practice in pesticide applications helps reduce use while maintaining green spaces at their healthiest form, making these living organisms more resistant to pests and requiring less input to keep them healthy. These practices further reduce any harmful environmental impact, while increasing the positive environmental impacts of green spaces.
As industry professionals, our primary concern is the environment; we work to maintain it, enhance it and conserve it. Our entire industry depends on the environment and we have a history of being its stewards.
We can work together to improve the health of our green spaces.
The ban, in its current state, is failing to reduce the use of pesticide by the public, and it hinders the professionals from properly using tools to address complex integrated pest management issues.
Doreen Layman is president of Landscape Newfoundland & Labrador.