Manitoba should think twice before banning pesticides

The unintended consequences don’t necessarily make for a healthier environment

by the editors

An odd way to encourage a more natural environment

Photo By Deborah Baic; The Globe and Mail; CP

Winter is not typically given to thoughts of lawn care. Nevertheless, Manitoba’s conservation minister recently announced he’s making plans for a pesticide ban. In particular, Gord Mackintosh said he’s keen to bring Manitoba’s pesticide laws in line with those in other provinces. “Manitobans are entitled to the same protections most other Canadians enjoy,” he declared.

Yet Manitobans might want to learn from the experience of those other provinces, rather than simply parrot them. Evidence from other jurisdictions suggests there are numerous unintended consequences to such a ban. And not all of them make for a healthier environment.

Currently every province east of the Mantioba-Ontario border restricts the use of cosmetic pesticides in some way. Mackintosh says he admires the strict bans enforced in Ontario and Nova Scotia. These rules prohibit use of a long list of pesticides on all lawns and fields. Golf courses and farms are exempt.

Of course, every one of these banned pesticides has been certified as safe for residential use by Ottawa’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. PMRA scientists perform rigorous evaluations of all pesticides and when they conclude that one “meets Canada’s strict health and safety standards,” this verdict carries the weight of exhaustive investigation. Bans, encouraged by lobby groups ranging from family physicians to environmentalists, rest not on competing scientific evidence, but rather a vague unease about chemicals in general.

As such, provincial pesticide bans represent a triumph of sentiment over science. But does this sort of regulation provide a net benefit to society? The experience of other provinces can be revealing.

After two years without pesticides in Ontario, the evidence is starkly visible: mostly browns and yellows. There’s little debate the province looks shabbier and weedier now. Parks, sports fields and lawns have become wholly infested with dandelions and a variety of other weeds and there’s no practical way to remove them, other than hand-pulling. Whether this is a good or bad thing may depend on your definition of beauty—not to mention the condition of your back and knees. A recent poll found a majority of Ontario homeowners want to end the ban.

But what of other health impacts arising from a pesticide ban? In Chicago, the suburban municipality of Highland Park regularly won awards for the quality of its sports fields. Then four years ago it dropped pesticides for trendy organic pest control. The result was a disaster. In some parks, weeds accounted for over 60 per cent of the ground cover. Many fields were unusable for sports. “The fields are getting worse every year,” parks commissioner Cal Bernstein told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Something needs to be done to reverse the trend.” In November, the district approved the return of pesticides.

And while pesticide bans are frequently defended by advocates as a way to reduce unknown risks and promote a more natural environment, in fact the opposite may be true.

The number of artificial turf fields in Ontario has recently exploded—from a mere handful a decade ago to over a hundred this year. For Rob Witherspoon, director of the University of Guelph’s Turfgrass Institute, the reason for the switch from natural to ersatz is obvious. “Without pesticides it has become a lot more challenging to maintain a natural turf sports field,” he observes.

Artificial turf fields boast plenty of advantages, despite their average $1-million upfront cost. A typical artificial field can provide up to four times the usable playing hours as compared to natural grass, since real turf requires frequent rests and considerable expertise to maintain. Nonetheless, it seems ironic a pesticide ban meant to encourage a greener environment will result in a greater prevalence of plastic sports fields. (Not to mention the issue of how to dispose of an artificial field once its lifespan ends.)

Other real risks have also been overlooked in the unscientific panic about pesticides. Witherspoon notes that grass is not only a natural filter, but also a microbiological system that consumes any bodily fluids leaked, spat or vomited onto it. Not so with an artificial field. In the absence of a cleansing downpour, what’s on the field stays on the field. Texas, with a hot, dry climate that favours artificial turf fields, has reported a rate of staph infections among high school students many times the national average. In 2007, footballer Boone Baker of Austin, Texas, almost died from a deadly methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection he picked up from his high school’s artificial turf. Regular disinfection of artificial fields using industrial-strength chemical products is now a recommended maintenance procedure in all climates.

When it comes to pesticides, Manitoba can learn a lot from the experience of those who’ve gone before. If the goal is to reduce verifiable risks, promote a more natural environment and encourage healthy activities, banning pesticides seems a strange way to go about it.




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Manitoba should think twice before banning pesticides

  1. I was under the distinct impression that Macleans was a progressive magazine, rather than a mouthpiece for the pesticide industry. Obviously I was badly mistaken! I am shocked!!! Who am !? I am a retired middle-level federal public servant, thoroughly familiar with the Ottawa’s pesticide approval scene. Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is notorious for lagging behind the EU’s reviewers of pesticides. This Agency’s operating principle, risk management, is based on the false premise that people are exposed to only one chemical at a time, that they have never been exposed before to any toxic chemicals, that pesticides are always used according to the label and are safer when applied by trained applicators. In fact, the PMRA seldom evaluates breakdown products of applied herbicides, which may be highly toxic (more toxic than the original pesticide) and persistent. The often ignored “inerts” of pesticides may amount to as much as 90% of the entire product and may be carcinogenic. Members of The Standing Committee on Health of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, were told in April 2005 that PMRA is not to be trusted. This Agency has no labs of its own and evaluates data selected and submitted by the pesticide industry almost exclusively. PMRA’s use of safety factors in human health risks assessment concerning seniors, pregnant women, children and fetuses is inadequate and ignores cumulative exposures. PMRA’s advisory committees were found to be insufficiently independent and over-represented by people with a particular commercial interest. We have no artificial sports fields in Ottawa and our naturally maintained sports fields are doing just fine. I know because my grandson plays soccer regularly. My suburban substantial lawn is green and weedless, as are lawns of my neighbours. Shame on Macleans.ca for peddling pesticide industry’s propaganda so blatantly. Who says the “panic” about pesticides is unscientific? Since when the editors of Mcleans have acquired the right to consider themselves experts on this important issue? Black is white and white is black. How can highly toxic pesticides, some of which were notorious for their past application on battlefields, be a means of achieving a healthy environment and encourage healthy activities? If they are so wonderful, why not spray them on our breakfast eggs, instead of salt? This is the most appalling article I have read in recent months. Manitoba should think twice before taking this harmful nonsense seriously.

    • Congratulations.  You’ve picked holes in PMRA’s protocols without providing any substantive evidence to prove that your concerns are valid.  Gaps in data provided by the pesticide industry might be a problem, but I’ll give higher weight to even an incomplete data set than unsubstantiated assertions.

    • I can’t believe it!  You’re a FRAUD!  WOW, you guys will go to any lengths to fuel rhetoric.  Unbelievable.  EVERYONE, Richard Clarkson is not a real person but a group of anti-pesticide activists illegally acting as a person.  There are 2 sides to every story and you just messed this one up with your deceitful fraud.  Be honest and don’t hide behind a fake name.

  2. Why are they so worried about what I walk on, when they spray everything I eat??

  3. We don’t need toxic, cosmetic herbicides and insecticides in our soil, ground water and air. If lawns are brown and yellow, they are lacking water, not poison. We need to re-evaluate the definition of a beautiful park to align with nature, rather than trying to force it to conform to an imaginary ideal.

  4. NORAHG Responds to the CARNAGE Caused by Anti-Pesticide
    PROHIBITION.

     

    PROHIBITION has led to HORRENDOUS and CATASTROPHIC CARNAGE for
    businesses operating in the Professional Lawn Care Industry, in the form of
    IMMENSE LOSSES OF REVENUES, BUSINESS FAILURES, BANKRUPTCY, and UNEMPLOYMENT,
    and even HORRIFIC FINES.

     

    PROHIBITION has INFLICTED CARNAGE in jurisdictions such as Halifax
    Regional Municipality, and the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

     

    Because of Anti-Pesticide PROHIBITION, the owners, employees, and
    families dependent on Professional Lawn Care businesses have faced TERROR,
    DESPAIR, and DESTITUTION.

     

    Because of Anti-Pesticide PROHIBITION in Halifax Regional
    Municipality, Professional Lawn Care customers DISINTEGRATED BY OVER 50 PER
    CENT.

     

    As a sad consequence of Anti-Pesticide PROHIBITION in the Province
    of Quebec, OVER 60 PER CENT of the Professional Lawn Care Industry WAS
    ANNIHILATED.

     

    Because of PROHIBITION in Ontario, the Professional Lawn Care
    Industry LOST OVER 500,000,000 DOLLARS, with UP TO 12,500 UNEMPLOYED.

     

    Because of PROHIBITION in Ontario, ONE-COMPANY-PER-WEEK DISAPPEARS
    INTO TOTAL OBLIVION.

     

    The SAME fate soon awaits Manitoba.

     

    For more information, go to the following web-pages  …

     

    http://pesticidetruths.com/toc/carnage-caused-by-anti-pesticide-prohibition/

     

    http://pesticidetruths.com/toc/myth-busting-prohibition/

     

     

    WILLIAM H. GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G

     

     

    National Organization Responding Against HUJE that seek to harm
    the Green Space Industry ( NORAHG ).

     

    NORAHG is TOTALLY INDEPENDENT as a NATIONAL NON PROFIT and NON
    PARTISAN organization dedicated to reporting the work of RESPECTED and HIGHLY
    RATED EXPERTS who promote ENVIRONMENTAL REALISM and PESTICIDE TRUTHS.

     

    http://pesticidetruths.com/

    P.S. For information about Richard Clarkson, go to the following web-page  …

    http://pesticidetruths.com/toc/cottam-ghost-writers/

  5. The very fact that the PMRA has roughly 350 toxicologists, i.e. rodent (rats) specialists and hardly any epidemiologists (human specialists)–to my knowlege the PMRA has only one or two–speaks volumes. Besides I am told that substantial cuts to PMRA personnel are coming. My previous comment provides ample evidence that all is not well with the PMRA, which has no labs of its own and is entirely at the mercy of the pesticide industry, i.e. controversial data may be withheld by the industry from the PMRA at any time. Unsubstantiated assertions? What I said in my previous comment are solid facts. There is ample evidence of pesticide harm. What is lacking are open minds on the part of those who are conditioned to think that pesticides are God’s gift to the creation.

    • I HIGHLY doubt there are 350 toxicologists at the PMRA.  AND cuts to all government departments are coming, not just to Health Canada.  Do you think Canada will become a less safe country to live in as it becomes fiscally responsible?  You provide no evidence, just your comments, and you are not correct.

  6. “Why are they so worried about what I walk on, when they spray everything I eat?” When you walk on the ground sprayed by pesticides you absorb these poisons via inhalation or skin. In both cases the toxic poisons go directly to your brain, by-passing liver which is the cleansing organ. When you eat food with pesticide residues, your liver, the cleansing organ, processes pesticides, thus minimizing their harm.

    • Proof, evidence, peer reviewed studies are all items lacking in your statements Ms Cottam.

  7. No writer will even put their name behind this tripe. The article is simply by “the editors”. Too funny. Shame on you Macleans. Mouthpiece for the pesticide industry indeed.

  8. With reference to the preposterous comment by Atomic_Walrus, challenging my supposedly unsubstantiated assertions, what I say in my lengthy blog are hard facts. This applies to the way Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) operates, entirely in the pesticide industry’s corner,  the nature of its personnel and the lack of own labs, which makes this agency entirely dependent on pesticide industry’s data, some of which is withheld. I also mention how the PMRA interprets the risk to vulnerable members of our population, especially pregnant women, fetuses and young children, with each pesticide exposure viewed in isolation from others, ignoring multiple and cumulative exposures, highly toxic breakdown products and often the “inerts” as well. Every assertion I make is verifiable and my concerns are fully valid. Moreover, the PMRA doesn’t even bother to request data on the likely presence of the appropriate dioxin; dioxins are highly toxic products of chemicals’ manufacturing.

    • So where’s your data indicating that their interpretation of risk is inappropriate?  It’s insufficient to allege that PMRA’s methodology is inadequate.  You need to show that the factors you cite actually amount to something significant.  Ideally, you would cite published peer-reviewed studies showing that multiple and cumulative exposures result in significantly different outcomes than PMRA methodology.  As a retired scientist, I’m sure you understand the importance of supporting hypotheses with data and citations.  The fact that you are posting to a general news website does not absolve you of the need to support your assertions.  

  9. I
    completely agree with all what Richard Clarkson said! I was behind the Quebec Pesticide Code, a first in North America almost 10 years ago! I also had the
    best lawn in town at that time and proved to all my neighbours and lawn
    maintenance companies that it is possible to have a nice landscape without
    pesticides. I moved to the country now and don’t need any lawn. I wrote books
    about organic lawn care, in French only for the moment. I would like to add a
    few facts about pesticides: how can we trust PMRA certitudes when we know that
    so many products are now banned after being “safe” for many years before? We
    should be concerned as well about all those pesticides sprayed on our food of
    course, but we have the choice to buy organic products. We can’t avoid breathing
    pesticides sprayed by neighbours or on public grounds. On the other hand
    children are the most vulnerable because they sit and play on lawns and even
    eat grass sometimes! They didn’t ask for perfect lawns! It is very difficult to
    prove evidence of pesticide poisoning because we are exposed to so many
    different ones, but more and more people are getting “allergic” or
    hypersensitive to many chemicals and they definitely can’t tolerate any
    pesticide spraying in their neighbourhood. Do they have the right to enjoy safe
    public lawns ? And what is a “beautiful” lawn? Do we really need those dull
    monocultures? What is a “weed”? If they grow naturally better than grass it is
    because they are better adapted to a variety of environmental conditions such
    as drought, acidity, poor soil, etc. A nice lawn should not depend on
    pesticides! By the way, dandelions are medicinal plants and very good for our
    health! What kind of society do we live in were people fight against flowers?
    What about biodiversity?

  10. Atomic_Walrus is utterly unreasonable and no doubt connected to the pesticide industry. I have no intention to write another PhD thesis to satisfy him. Not everything I say is based on written sources–some of it is a product of oral, reliable testimonies.

    • I’m a principal engineer with a green energy company.  We work in the field of electrochemistry, not biotech. In my line of work, I’d only be involved with pesticides if I was concerned about them adsorbing onto a platinum catalyst.  

      I’m not asking you for a Ph.D. thesis, but I am asking you for some evidence to support your allegations.  I even followed the link on your Discus profile to Coalition for a Healthy Ottawa’s website – same assertions, same lack of citations to support your concerns.  There’s some irony in the fact that the article writes about “ Bans, encouraged by lobby groups ranging from family physicians to environmentalists, rest not on competing scientific evidence, but rather a vague unease about chemicals in general.”, yet here you are making assertions without supplying the competing scientific evidence.  ”Trust me, I’m a scientist” isn’t sufficient.  Good grief – I’m not even directly challenging your assertions, just asking you to back them up with something.

    • So you admit to having nothing. All of your drivel is nothing more than hearsay.  Big surprise.

    • No such thing as an oral, reliable testimony in the scientific world.

  11. I forgot to add that, since the Quebec Pesticide Code in 2003, we still have nice lawns and landscapes in the Province of Quebec. Probably more flowers also but this is so much better for bees, etc. The landscape industry has become more responsible and some offer better maintenance programs instead of pesticide spraying. But we got rid of those “Jo pick up” guys who didn’t had any qualification in landscaping. There is still lots of work to be done to change people’s mind about “weeds” but everyone accept here to have yellow flowers in parks and fields in the spring. So don’t worry Manitoba and go ahead with your pesticide ban!

    • Ya, because everyday people buy them from the US and bring them into Quebec and Ontario.  PMRA regulates pesticides and deems them safe.  

    • Two reasons – People are still using pesticides, or they are using “organic” pesticides which are no safer than their currently illegal counterparts.  Is it REALLY safer to be spraying a biological life form on your grass?  What happens when the spores decide to mutate or start growing inside your house?

      • Was I
        talking about « organic » pesticides ? No.

        Stat Canada
        published a survey in 2007 showing that pesticide use dropped by 50% in Quebec
        homes after the pesticide Code of 2003. This includes “low impact pesticides”
        that are registered by Health Canada as well. People should be careful with
        any kind of product that is designed to kill.

        If some
        plants can’t survive without pesticides, get rid of them. Gardening should be
        fun and not war. As someone else said earlier in this forum, lawns and other
        plants did survive very well before pesticides came on the market. Good
        gardeners know that healthy plants thrive in healthy soil and also that you
        should grow a diversity of resistant plants and according to local conditions (soil, sun, humidity, etc.). We have to change our expectations vs
        non natural landscapes, such as those perfect lawns, if they can’t survive
        without pesticides.

        Pesticides
        should be banned for cosmetic use because their effects are not limited to one
        backyard and neighbours are involuntary exposed to products that can affect
        their live quality. The precautionary principle was applied by the Supreme Court
        of Canada in the Hudson case: the first town to ban pesticides in 1991.

  12. A message for Atomic_Walrus: get off my back! You have said enough. You may be an engineer, but I don’t believe you are working for a green company. No doubt, you have been conditioned to think pesticides are wonderful. People’s foreheads don’t tell you: I have been exposed to such and such chemical and now I have come down with such and such cancer or some other ailment. It is not a case of two and two equals four. It is far more complicated, especially in the case of multiple exposures. I have no intention to spoon feed you. Do your own research, if capable!

    HERE ARE SOME REFERENCES TO SCHOLARLY STUDIES:
    McDuffie HH, Paliwa P, McLaughlin JR et al. Non-Hodgin’s lymphoma and specific pesticide exposures in men: cross-Canada study of pesticides and health. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001;10:1155-1163.
    Mills PK, Yang R, Riordan D. Lymphohematopoietic cancers in the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), 1988-2001. Cancer Causes Control. 2005;16:823-830.
    Miligi L, Constantini AS, Veraldi A et al. Cancer and pesticides: An overview and some results of the Italian multicenter case-control study on hematolymphopoietic malignancies. Annals NY Acad. Sci. 2006:1076;366-377.
    Mills PK, Yang RC. Agricultural exposures and gastric cancer risk in Hispanic farm workers in California. Environ Res. 2007; 104(2)282-289.
    Mills PK, Yang R. Breast cancer risk in Hispanic agricultural workers in California. Int J Occup Environ Health 2005;11:123-131.
    M. Sears, CR Walker, RHC van der Jagt, P Claman. Pesticide assessment: Protecting public health on the home turf. Paediatr Child Health Vol 11 No 4 April 2006; 229-234. Bibliography consists of 66 items.
    Cox, Caroline. Insecticide Fact Sheet: Imidacloprid. Journal of Pesticide Reform. Spring 2003, Vol. 21, No. 1.
    Porter, Warren. Facing Scientific Realities, Debunking the “Dose Makes the Poison” Myth. The Big Picture: Linking pesticide science and health effects. Pesticides and You. Vol. 27, No. 4, 2007-8.
    (Based on 11 scholarly articles.)
     

  13. “Bans, encouraged by  lobby groups ranging from family physicians to environmentalists, rest not on competing scientific evidence, but rather on a vague unease about chemicals in general.” This quote from the article under review is repeated by Atomic_Walrus. Since all chemicals are toxic to some degree that “unease” is justifield and is far from being vague. It is absolutely untrue that pesticide bans do not rest on “competitive” scientific evidence. Above all, truth, credible evidence do not compete with untruth and denial of evidence. Black isn’t white!  “Competitive” doesn’t apply. Something is either true and credible or is untrue and not credible. The annoying double speak only muddies the waters and is not conducive to having an independent and credible discussion.

  14. MacLean’s did a good job of refreshing the pesticide industry’s old arguments while finding anecdotal examples to support their position.
    It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the Maclean’s editors conveniently forgot to disclosed that the recent Ontario survey had been ordered and paid for by Croplife, the powerful lobby group representing the financial interests of the pesticide industry. 
    Had the editors been looking to build an educated opinion instead of undermining their publisher’s credibility, they would have consulted with officials in Quebec where healthy green space has been successfully managed under a progressive pesticide management code since 2003 (http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/pesticides/permis-en/code-gestion-en/index.htm ). 
    Furthermore, it is apparent that the MacLean’s editors did not consult the documentation provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) on low-maintenance lawns, as they would have found how simple and easy it is to have a great looking lawn without the use of pesticides (http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/maho/la/la_004.cfm ). 
    MacLean’s editors need to be reminded that no matter how thorough the PMRA is in regulating pesticides, Health Canada still recommends minimizing their use. 
    Health Canada also says that effective pest management for lawn care doesn’t have to involve pesticide use. Furthermore, the regulator asks us to remember that pesticides give  short-term control of lawn pests, but rarely long-lasting solutions (edited excerpt from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pest/part/protect-proteger/use-utiliser/_lawn-pelouse/index-eng.php ). 
    Personally, like the vast majority of Canadians, I do not use nor buy pesticides for cosmetic reasons. By following simple, cheap and well-documented maintenance practices, I get a lawn that is green and healthy for kids and pets to play on. 
    The essence of the new proposed regulation is to limit human –and most importantly children’s– exposure to these toxic chemicals. 
    In Manitoba, a legislation to ban the use and sale of pesticides for cosmetic reasons is not only a necessity, it is overdue.

    • Please note, vast majority of Canadians purchase pesticides from the US and apply to their lawns. We are not pesticide free. Sorry to break your bubble.

  15. Bsisoranic is obviously another pesticide promoter.  I don’t admit to having nothing and basing my responses on hearsay. I have texts of scholarly articles or references to them accumulated also at home. I am listing some of them below. To apportion imaginary, unsubstantiated blame to opponents is easy, but is more difficult to be persuasive and come up with credible evidence when arguing the alleged innocence of pesticides. “Bans encouraged by lobby groups ranging from family physicians to environmentalists rest not on competing scientific evidence, but rather a vague unease about pesticides in general.” Thus the definition of “lobby groups” is confined to family physicians and environmentalists. Pesticide peddling spokesmen for the pesticide industry are forgotten. One would think that lobbying is confined to doctors and wicked environmentalists who threaten the well-being of pesticide peddlers. In fact, it is the professional pesticide peddlers that have inspired the article above who are eminently notorious for their pesticide peddling.

    • “To apportion imaginary, unsubstantiated blame to opponents is easy,”    Yes it is, since you did it in your first sentence: “Bsisoranic is obviously another pesticide promoter”.  I’d be quite happy to be persuaded by your arguments, but frankly, you started with bald assertions of “these are facts because I said so”, and moved on to ad hominems.  You’ve also committed a basic error of logic here:”Thus the definition of ‘lobby groups’ is confined to family physicians and environmentalists”.  The previous comment you quoted did not claim that these are the only types of lobby groups that exist, but these are lobby groups supporting the ban.  “Pesticide-peddling-spokesmen” are indeed a lobby group, but they’re not supporting the ban.

      Your earlier post, citing a few reports, was much better.  It would have been far better still if you hadn’t started it with toxins of your own: “A message for Atomic_Walrus: get off my back! You have said enough. You
      may be an engineer, but I don’t believe you are working for a green
      company. No doubt, you have been conditioned to think pesticides are
      wonderful.”
      Lovely – again, in your arrogance, you pretend to know the motives of your detractors, you accuse them of lying based on nothing but your “belief”, you suggest they stop participating in the conversation when you are clearly the most avid poster on this issue.

      I happen to agree there’s cause to minimize pesticide use, but in this conversation, it’s your opponents who are arguing most rationally, coherently, and respectfully.  Frankly, Richard Clarkson, you’re not doing your side any favours when you argue like an idealogue with The Truth – especially not one who sees all contrary opinion as blasphemy or, indeed the work of the Devil, as it appears you do.

  16. So Clarkson is a retired “federal public servant” and scientist. Well I think most people will agree the “public servant” part gives you no expertise in anything. The scientist part, I would think, had nothing to do with pesticide research or I’m sure he would have stated that. And the part about the pesticides being absorbed into the body and going directly to the brain? What expertise gives you this knowledge? He sounds like the Canadian Cancer Society that promotes this nonsense even though they have no expertise and are just a fund raising organization. In fact the American Cancer Society and others have stated that there is no reason to think there is a connection between pesticides and cancer. Show us proof and I will be on your side. Because something might cause this and might cause that without any proof of any kind is not a reason to ban anything. All these anti pesticide critics (not environmentalists but critics) are uninformed and ignorant or just plain liars.

  17. That a Canadian national news agency would lead the cheering section for the pesticide industry leaves me astounded.  For years I have admired the progressive actions of Canadian cities and provinces in restricting the use of pesticides in lawn care.  Living in California, the sight of Mr. Homeowner (rarel do I see a woman doing this–too bright?)  broadcast spraying RoundUp on a bright sunny day comes at you left and right.  I usually find that debating scientific “proof” on an opinion column is a bit proposterous.  However, sharing wisdom may be more palitable.  Consider the “Cautionary Principle”:  If something is suspected to have negative consequences for society and the environment that supports it, the broader ecosystem, we should consider not doing it or at least restricting it.  After all, we are talking about lawns and dandelions here.

  18. That a Candadian national news agency should take up the cheering section for the pesiticide industry leaves me astounded.  Positions taken by many Canadian cities and providences with regard to restricing pesticides are progressive and laudible.  Living in California, the sight of Mr. Homeowner(rarely have I seen a woman doing this–too bright?) broadcast spraying RoundUp, glares even on a sunny day.  Debating scientific evidence on an opinion column usually seems pointless.  However, maybe a little wisdom might be considered here.  Take the “Cautionary Principle” for instance:  if something may have a negative consequence on society and the environment that supports it, the broader ecosystem, then we should consider not doing it or at least restricting its use.  After all, we are talking about lawns and dandelions here.

  19. It is a gross exaggeration to suggest that a lot of Canadians cross the border to buy pesticides. None in my neighbourhood, where lawns are substantial, apply pesticides.The toxic smell seems permanently absent, since the Ontario ban was implemented almost three years ago. By the way, I am a retired Ottawa’s federal public servant and my PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency) source is reliable. At least for the time being, there are 350 toxicologists at the PMRA. However, several provinces have ignored the PMRA and went ahead to ban their cosmetic use of pesticides, so what this agency does really doesn’t matter that much.

  20. This is more than crazy! I AM NOT A GROUP OF ANTI-PESTICIDE ACTIVISTS ILLEGALLY ACTING AS A PERSON. I am ONE individual, a retired middle-level Canadian federal public servant. I worked mainly in Ottawa, but was also posted abroad. There is absolutely nothing illegal about my sending a comment under an assumed name. How many people use their own name when commenting online–just look below! There is no double truth. Something is either true or it isn’t true. OK, if I am to be honest and not hide under an assumed name, then others should do so too. Everyone here, come out from the cold and give out your real name! There is a bunch of diehards in Canada who keep sending their “newsletters” to a group of selected prominent individuals against these recipients’ will. These newsletters usually contain pictures of half-naked women with parts of their breasts exposed. Please tell me, what have these utterly disgusting pictures to do with the issue of cosmetic use of pesticides?

  21. Maybe instead of re-introducing human-threatening poisons, we could make adaptations to our pristine expectations of sports fields ……….

    I know two people who have had disastrous encounters with pesticides.

    My girlfriend was in hospital for three days before the doctors were able to figure out the horrible rash on her calves and feet. Turns out, the lawn people had applied pesticide to her lawn, but failed to put up the warning sign; she’d gone walking barefoot in her backyard with painful results. I shudder to think if it had been her baby grandchild crawling across the lawn!

    My doctor went golfing on a course that uses pesticides. He obviously had a sensitivity, because he became very ill within a short time, and nearly died! Thinking about it afterwards, he was pretty convinced it was the pesticides that did it, and in the interests of research, he returned to the course a year later for a very quick trip on one of the greens. He got sick again, but not deathly ill.

    The positive outcome of all this: my doctor went on to become a homeopath as well as a GP, and now helps people with environmental sensitivities who have trouble surviving in our pollution and chemical laden land. I’m one of them.

  22. Response to F. Snider: why is it that people who are against cosmetic use of pesticides are always the ones expected to prove that pesticides are harmful ? Why aren’t people of your persuasion, i.e. pesticide promoters, expected to prove that pesticides are safe? Even if you were willing and tried to do this, you couldn’t. On the other hand, there is plenty of proof concerning the toxicity of pesticides. I happen to have a lot of reliable scholarly information on this subject, but it would take me many hours and tonnes of paper to do this for your benefit. The fact that you going after the Canadian Cancer Society is proof to me  that you speak for the pesticide industry. On the other hand, the American Cancer Society is notorious for speaking for the pesticide industry and is not to be trusted. Elementary decency dictates that if you cannot prove a product safe that is suspected of potential to do a great deal of harm, especially to pregnant women and children,  you embrace “the precautionary principle.” You have no business to call anyone a liar. This kind of obnoxious behaviour should not be tolerated in a civilized society. Ignorance is bliss.

    • I’m astounded at the amount of dimwits who have posted in this thread. Are some of you honestly arguing that pesticides are healthy/don’t affect people? 90% of this article completely avoided this topic, instead concentrating on “ugly weeds” and hard to clean astro-turf. Stop–you’re breaking my heart. This reminds me of the psychos arguing that global warming doesn’t exist: I mean, um, even if it didn’t (and of courseit does!), isn’t limiting toxins in the air and water a good thing? “Well, not when jobs are at stake!” shouts the right-wingers. Here’s another boo-hoo: I got news for you all—the death of EVERYTHING is coming: no water, no air, no life. So, yeah–if a few people  (ie: lawn care industries–the horror, the horror!) have it rough and go out of buiness because a law now limits the amount of poison put in our ground water, well so be it. Survival of the fitest worsk both ways–evolve, adapt, follow a better more sustainable business model.

      Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go flush my head down the toilet to clean all the poop out of my ears from these filthy, corrupt replies. Signed: An anonymous person working for a community college in Ontario…a far left loonie. Again, I weep for humanity.Morons.

      • I completely agree!

        • Yeah! You said it!.

          • Never has anyone so concisely, and with such a contemptuous tone, expressed my inner feelings for corruption and ignorance. I applaud you sir. 

      •  Perfectly stated – thank you, Richard – I agree 200%. And I laughed and laughed!
        — Another far left loonie, and proud of it.

  23. Think about it, were all lawns and parks and golf courses really so bad before the advent of a suite of chemicals to take care of them? Once we acquired the chemical support, you could grow a good-looking lawn on a few inches of poor soil, so guess what: that’s what’s regularly installed today, a few inches of “manufactured top soil” which has inorganic fertilizers added but very little organic matter, very litle clay.. and within a year these soils poop out and the grass look terrible if it’s not regularly fertilized. With herbicides, we got rid of the nitrogen-fixing white clover that had taken care of the lawns’ nitrogen requirements and also recycled nutrients from depth via its tap roots and also filled in the spaces…so we need more nitrogen fertilizer and more weeding/weed killers to get rid of the broadleaved plants that invade the spaces… then the excess nitrogen stimulates pests, so we apply more pesticides; the nitrogen acidifies the soil so we use more lime, and it overstimulates the grass so we need more watering and on it goes. When you stop, you get the unsightly turfs cited in the editorial. Some of the the best looking lawns are those around farm houses, which are on good soil and for which the only maintenance is regular mowing (few farmers would waste their chemicals on the lawn), so the clover thrives, the grass thrives, and the lawns look great. It’s not rocket science.

  24. DavidP. Halifax: Thanks for introducing white clover and giving it the right kind of publicity it richly deserves. Don’t any of you dummies who contributed your infinite wisdom to this blog (i.e. your unmitigated crap) say anything to the contrary!. White clover is a beautiful and truly beneficial addition to any turf. All grass seed sold used to contain white (also called Dutch) clover! White clover adds moisture and nitrogen to the turf; makes it look a beautiful, a rich shade of green!  I could go on and on singing the praises of Dutch clover. On the other hand, just stop and think: what is so wonderful about pesticides? Are they God’s gift to his Creation? I am sick and tired of pesticide peddlers. Pesticides this and pesticides that. You would think that Moses descended from on High and ordered us to use pesticides or else we shall roast in hell. True and independent science that tells us to be cautious is dismissed as “junk science”. A critical look at tobacco was at one time unpopular too; it was criticism of tobacco that was first to be called  “junk science.”  Cigarettes and nicotine were at one time promoted as being good for you. I am the author of a ground-breaking article on second-hand smoke: “Smoking’s Innocent Victims”, Reader’s Digest, July 1983. It was read by millions. I know what I am talking about with reference to pesticides as well. If pesticides are so wonderful why don’t we spray them on our breakfast eggs? While vacationing in Costa Rica I met an American woman who told me that her husband had tried to prove herbicide 2,4-D harmless by swallowing it. I asked her how he is doing. She replied: “The idiot had kicked the bucket long ago!” Yes, if pesticides are God’s gift to the Creation, why don’t we eat them for breakfast, lunch and supper? I have had enough of the pesticide peddling smart alecks. The more you think you know, the more ignorant you really are.

  25. There is absolutely no proof that a vast majority of Ontarians buy pesticides in the U.S. This is pesticide industry propaganda swallowed by those who are addicted to pesticides and are pitifully gullible on this issue. I see absolutely no evidence of this in Ottawa, for example.

  26. One day our kids will read this article reposted in their current newspaper…They’ll think…,”What the hell were our parents thinking spreading that crap all over the place!”

  27. The PMRA receives about 30% or its funding from industry.

    The PMRA has no labs of its own to do independent testing.

    The PMRA relies almost completely on industry documentation to determine whether a pesticide is safe. HT Stelfox and others published a groundbreaking study in the Jan. 8/98 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine showing that sponsored research is almost always biased and completely unreliable. A score of similar studies since then have confirmed this finding.

    The PMRA never tests pesticide products, only active ingredients, which comprise 1 – 50% of products. Studies by Prof. Rick Relyea at the University of Pittsburgh have shown that the surfactant polyethoxylated tallowamine, included with the active ingredient glyphosate in Roundup, converts a herbicide into a lethal amphibicide (kills frogs and tadpoles).

    The PMRA never tests pesticides in combination with one another but new studies are showing that combinations are often far more toxic than isolated compounds. In the real world, chemicals are always interacting with one another.

    The example, at the end of this editorial, of the football player Boone Baker contracting MRSA (the super-resistant form of Staph) from a playing field is a pathetic red herring. First, MRSA itself is a product of the flagrant overuse of antibiotics (as a 35 year primary care physician, I am well aware of this embarrassing and unresolved problem), and not due to a lack of pesticide deployment. Second, the risk is only significant on artificial turf, not natural grass; bacteria in natural grass out-compete MRSA. Third, pesticides in general are not anti-bacterial, and so their use has no effect on MRSA per se.

    I stopped subscribing to Maclean’s some years ago because you included ads from the dairy industry at the beginning of each issue without indicating clearly that they were ads, not articles. I see that your public relations focus has now shifted. Is advertising revenue from the pesticide industry now part of your revenue stream? 

  28. In response to Warren Bell MD
    My thought is that Maclean’s has become a pawn of the Conservative government. Say it isn’t so…..

  29. Imontoyou needs to have his head examined. You have been brainwashed by a bunch of pitiful old guys peddling awful pesticide crap and consoling themselves with pictures of disgusting looking, half-naked young girls.There is nothing illegal about Richard Clarkson, who is a single retired public servant now busy with pesticide research. No deceitful fraud is being perpetrated, except by those who promote pesticides and call them harmless. Here is a pot calling a kettle black. Imontoyou isn’t exactly honest by hiding his own identity.

  30. Sorry Mr. Richard Clarkson, but salt IS a chemical and a very toxic one at that. It actually has a higher LD-50 (lethal dose to kill 50% of the population), unlike any 2-4,D herbicide. Oh, and Merit (made by Bayer) is 10% the strength of her cousin given orally (as Advantage) to your pets. I would suggest Mr. Richard Clarkson that before you slam an article which may go against your highly emotional sentiments on the subject, that you reflect highly on your opinions. Everything is a chemical – either in our bodies or in our lawn. The position that this article is trying to make is rather than coming to hasty conclusions based on emotion, Manitobans should consider both sides of the argument and come to some sort of working compromise before completely dismissing one thing as evil. I am sorry, if I offend, but what happened in Ontario disregarded this judicial process and the government went on ahead and created laws regardless of the “feelings” felt by opposing opinions. And for your information, those advocacy groups were funded through back door means by the Government of Ontario. So, if anything, the McGuinty government had their own “agenda” to create this law in the first place.

  31. I came across this exchange of insults by accident. I happen to know Richard Clarkson very well and highly respect his judgment in contrast to the nonsense peddled by pesticide promoters. Yes, indeed inhaling pesticides is more deadly than swallowing them, because those swallowed are cleansed by the liver, according to a well-known and respected biochemist. Yes, indeed the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada merely rubber stamps industry’s research. The PMRA has no labs of its own.
    The pesticide peddlers would like us to have it written on our foreheads to what we have been exposed and the consequence of these exposures. Otherwise, they dismiss all pertinent and impeccable studies pointing to the toxicity of pesticide exposures as “junk science.” The shoe happens to be on the other foot–it is the science of pesticide promoters that is junk. Pornography is being enlisted in this fight. Girls with half-naked breasts and bare buttocks to the rescue of senile pesticide promoters! All this is very disgusting.

  32. Iamontoyou is utterly ridiculous in claiming Richard Clarkson is a group of people. I happen to know Clarkson very well and he most definitely is a single individual! On the other hand, Atomic_Walrus is unhappy about Richard’s evaluation of Health Canada’s PMRA. What are the basic concerns about the performance of this agency? That its staff is weak in epidemiology, ie. expertise on human health. This information was passed to me by an employee of PMRA and there is no reason whatsoever to question this. There are about 300 toxicologists, some have been terminated, and two or three epidemiologists (human health specialists). Rats have detoxification genes missing in humans and this is an undisputable fact. When it is stated that the PMRA merely rubber stamps industry’s data and has no labs of its own this is proven without a shadow of doubt on the basis of employees’ and former employees’ testimony, among other things. Now the onus should be equally on you to prove that what I say about the PMRA is false. Prove it! I bet you can’t, though talk is cheap. You can’t prove that the health data provided by the industry isn’t biased either. I bet you have a blind faith in the PMRA. Moreover, PMRA doesn’t search for dioxin, insiders info tells me this, Finally, only a small portion of chemicals is tested. The “inerts” are not tested even though they haven’t been proven harmless and there is evidence they may be carcinogenic.

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