Should Rossland ban pesticides? - Bylaw comes before council this week
How important is a sparkling green lawn, and is it worth using chemicals to get that result?
That question among others will come before Rossland council on Monday February 8th when a proposed bylaw to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides will be on the table. Cosmetic pesticides are typically classified as chemical pesticides used to control unwanted weeds and plants in order to improve the appearance of lawns and gardens and are non-agricultural and non-essential.
Humans have been using various substances to improve their agriculture and reduce pests for thousands of years. The first recorded use of the word “pesticide” was in Mesopotamia, approximately 4,500 years ago. At that time famers would spread elemental sulfur on their crops to reduce insect damage. The use of cosmetic pesticides, however, is a much more recent phenomenon.
There has been a concerted effort and push by a coalition of health and environmental groups against the use of cosmetic pesticides in BC over the past year. That group has been lobbying both the province and BC municipalities to introduce bans on the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides. Adding some muscle to their cause, the group includes heavy hitters such as the Public Health Association of BC; West Coast Environmental Law, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Toxic Free Canada; and the David Suzuki Foundation.
Targeting both the province and municipalities is part of their fight against pesticides. The way the law works, municipalities can ban the use of pesticides in within their boundaries; however they cannot ban the sale of related products. This fact has been a loophole that has affected other municipalities. The Halifax Regional Municipality, for example, banned the use of pesticides early in the 2000’s. The pesticides themselves, however, remained on sale in stores, and without an army of enforcement officers, there was no practical way to enforce the bylaw.
The largest effect in Halifax’s experience was that commercial lawn care agencies no longer use chemical pesticides. Quebec and Ontario have taken a provincial approach to the matter and have successfully banned the sale of the products in store.
In BC, cosmetic pesticides have already been banned for use by 28 municipalities. Locally, Nelson and the district of Invermere have already passed such legislation. Kimberley and Golden have passed first reading of their proposed bylaw while Fernie, Cranbrook, Castlegar and now Rossland are just bringing their proposed legislation to council.
Locally, Diana Daghofer, co-chair of Prevent Cancer Now, is getting behind the push and hopes to get concerned citizens out to council this Monday evening to show their support for the proposed bylaw. In a press release, Daghofer cautioned that, in a town such as this with many dogs running around, “a number of studies have linked pesticides to cancer among children, adults and pets. Do you know that dogs whose owners used chemical herbicides (which generally have 2,4-D in them) on their lawns were 4 to 7 times more likely to have bladder cancer than dogs whose owners did not?”
Another group calling themselves “Force of Nature” and claiming (although nameless in their releases) to offer “an independent perspective” has been running a frequent and emotionally charged e-mail campaign against the ban of pesticides. The major claims of the group is that “Enviro-terrorists” are “unleashing a plague of terror,” on the country around the desire to ban pesticides. They pose the bans as attacks on the lawn care, golf and green space industry. Their e-mail campaign attempts to debunk common misconceptions about law care such as “ENVIRO–LIE : The prohibition of pest control products will be a boon to our economy (Wrong !) Boosting business and creating green jobs. (Wrong !). RESPONSE TO ENVIRO–LIE: The claim from Enviro–Maniacs that prohibiting pest control products stimulates business is a LIE and MISCONCEPTION concocted by the Environmental Terror Movement.”
The lines have been drawn in the sand by two opposing groups, and the issue is now at the forefront of Rossland and other BC municipalities council decisions as well as at the provincial level.
If you are interested in this issue and wish to show your support for or against the proposed bylaw, the item will be on the agenda this Monday night.