Regulated Pesticides Safe, Effective

12.02.01.Pesticide Debate200Letter to Winnipeg Free Press 09/15/2013

Dear Editor,

Manitoba's Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship, Gord Mackintosh, has made baseless claims about the health and safety of pesticides that totally contradict the comprehensive health-and-safety assessments done by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), the federal body responsible for approving pesticides in Canada.

Health Canada's PMRA evaluates all pesticides -- whether "synthetic" or "natural" -- before they can be sold in Canada. Whether these products are used on lawns or crops, regulators base their decisions on the best available scientific information.

In addition, all registered products are required to be periodically re-evaluated. Health Canada recently completed an extensive re-evaluation of 2,4-D, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It concluded: "Risks to homeowners and their children from contact with treated lawns and turf are not of concern," and "there is reasonable certainty that no harm to human health, future generations or the environment will result from use or exposure to the product."

Quite simply, Health Canada does not approve any product for use it considers to pose an unacceptable risk to humans, including vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant women, or the environment. If any provincial government has a concern about a particular pesticide, the appropriate course of action would be to inform Health Canada, which can then do a special review.

Many of the active ingredients used in pesticides formulated for urban use are the same ones used in pesticides designed for farm use. That is why Health Canada does not distinguish between urban or farm use when conducting evaluations; either the product is safe or it is not. Health Canada's position is you cannot have one health standard for urban populations and another, lower, standard for rural populations. And we certainly agree. Manitobans are getting mixed and contradictory messages about the safety of pesticides and they deserve better. The Conservation and Water Stewardship department should leave the human health and environmental safety assessment of pesticides to Health Canada, which is staffed with more than 300 professionals whose sole responsibility is to look at these issues.

A ban on urban pesticides would do nothing to protect the health of Manitobans. It would simply rob urban residents of the ability to use federally approved tools to control pest infestations in their lawns and gardens, forcing them to use more expensive, less effective alternatives, turn to illegal products or abandon control measures on their properties altogether.

As we've seen in other jurisdictions, such as Ontario, bans are cosmetic in nature. There simply aren't the resources available to enforce them and many homeowners turn to potentially dangerous homemade concoctions or illegally bring in pesticides from other jurisdictions. Polling in Ontario shows more than half of homeowners are unhappy with the ban and want it changed. We have every reason to suspect it would be a similar story in Manitoba if a ban were implemented here. The reality is pesticide policy should be driven by sound science, and science shows pesticides can be safely used. Let's not punish law-abiding Manitobans for using safe and effective products on their lawns.  

Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers and 12 other agriculture-based or lawn care companies.