No Pesticide Ban in BC Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides posted its 118 page report today (May 17) concluding there is insufficient evidence to warrant a provincial wide ban on pesticides used for cosmetic purposes.

The Executive Summary from that report is as follows:

On June 2, 2011 and again on October 3, 2011 the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia approved a motion to appoint a Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides (the Committee). The Committee’s mandate was to examine, inquire into, and make recommendations with respect to the development and implementation of legislative provisions regarding what the terms of reference characterize as “the unnecessary use of pesticides in British Columbia” and to conduct consultations on this issue with the public and key stakeholders.

The creation of the Committee followed the introduction of varied restrictions on the cosmetic use of pesticides in seven Canadian provinces, the passage of 40 municipal bylaws on cosmetic pesticide use in British Columbia, and a 2009-10 BC Ministry of Environment public consultation on the issue of a possible ban on pesticides used for cosmetic purposes.

The all-party Committee developed an inclusive strategy to learn about pesticides and pesticide use.  It received briefings on the existing regulatory framework, heard presentations from 21 invited stakeholders, and hosted a two-month-long e-consultation that allowed British Columbians to submit written or video submissions or complete an e-questionnaire.

Throughout this process, committee members focused on: understanding the scientific evaluation process that pesticides are subject to before being registered for sale in Canada; learning about the possible health and environmental effects of pesticides; and developing an understanding of how pesticides are sold, used, and regulated in British Columbia.

Over 8,600 groups and individuals participated in the e-consultation, the largest number of submissions a BC  parliamentary committee has ever received. Of the 7,300 e-questionnaires submitted, almost 5,000 supported a ban on the sale and use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes.  Presentations from stakeholders and written submissions received through the e-consultation process provided varied perspectives on four main themes: the safety of pesticides; the use of pesticides in residential and industrial settings; the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA) process of testing and registering pesticides for sale in Canada; and existing pesticide legislation in British Columbia.

Over the course of its ten-month-long inquiry the majority of the Committee was struck by the information it received on the PMRA’s extensive pesticide registration process. The process includes comprehensive and precaution-based evaluation of risk in situations where homeowners apply pesticides. Officials from the BC Ministry of Environment provided information on the Integrated Pest Management Act that governs pesticide sale and use in the province.

The Committee dedicated a significant amount of time to examining research from stakeholders and the public that proposes a link between pesticides and negative health outcomes. It also heard about the possible negative effects pesticides can have on the natural environment. Submitters encouraged the Committee to recommend a province-wide ban based on the view that the precautionary principle is not being applied. Those who argue a ban is unjustified emphasized the thoroughness of the scientific processes the PMRA uses to determine that pesticides are safe for sale and use in Canada. They also stressed the important role pesticides play in improving the value and enjoyment of green spaces, in controlling invasive plants, and in supporting forestry and agriculture.

As part of its inquiry into the feasibility of a BC ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides, the Committee reviewed other jurisdictions’ experiences with bans. While these bans generally share a common purpose — the protection of human health and/or the natural environment from perceived unnecessary exposure to pesticides — the approach varies from province to province. In examining what other jurisdictions have done, the Committee noted that to date no other province has used an all-party parliamentary committee to investigate the cosmetic use of pesticides. Also, this Committee’s commitment to understanding pesticide regulation and the work and role of the PMRA appears to be unprecedented.

Throughout the committee inquiry the all-party Special Committee worked in a collaborative manner and strived to seek common ground. However, committee members have divided on party lines over the justification for a province-wide ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides. The Committee assessed all the evidence carefully, taking more time than originally planned, and the majority of members concluded that currently there is insufficient scientific evidence to warrant a province-wide ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides. Based on currently available studies, the majority cannot justify disagreeing with the findings of the PMRA’s comprehensive pesticide testing and re-evaluations. The minority, however, concluded that there is sufficient scientific evidence available for a province-wide ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides.

In order to achieve the goals of reducing pesticide use throughout the province, and ensuring safe and proper use of approved products by unlicensed applicators, the Committee makes 17 recommendations that include restricting the sale and use of Commercial-class pesticides, improving enforcement of existing regulations, and strengthening training and public education related to pesticides use. The Committee recommends regulatory changes to: bolster retail rules, improve sales monitoring, and enhance the training of certified pesticide applicator and dispensers. The Committee also recommends strategies to increase public knowledge of safe pesticide use, to encourage golf courses to fully embrace the pillars of integrated pest management, and to develop a superior pesticide-return program.

The Committee believes these recommendations will protect British Columbians from unnecessary exposure to pesticides, will provide improved education, will lead to safer use by unlicensed applicators, and will encourage the  overall reduction of pesticide use while providing individuals, businesses and industries with access to the tools necessary to enhance their personal green spaces, and control pests and invasive species.