Cosmetic Pesticide Ban: Myths Rebutted

(Adapted from www.mudandwater.org)

CropLife Canada, a chemical industry lobby group controlled by Monsanto, Cargill and the other agribusiness giants, is encouraging Manitobans to tell the provincial government that they don’t want a ban on cosmetic pesticides. They have produced a postcard calling for pesticide regulation based on science, not misinformation. However, it is CropLife that relies on myth and misinformation in their campaign against a ban.

What follows are several of the myths put forward by the pesticide industry along with facts from reliable sources including the Canadian government.

I do not want my property rights taken away. I have the right to control dandelions and other pests on my property.

The effects of pesticides are not limited to the land on which they are applied. Pesticides may contaminate neighbouring land and water. In Play It Safe, the Manitoba government consultation document on cosmetic pesticides, it states that “pesticides may drift in the air, leach into the soil or runoff into waterways and not remain on an individual’s property. Further, pesticides may be tracked indoors where residues can exist in carpets and clothing for long periods of time – even up to one year.”

Even without drift, pets, children and wildlife do not follow private property boundaries. Also growing children are much more susceptible to pesticides. The American Environmental Protection Agency reports that children can be at greatest risk from cosmetic pesticides because:

  • their internal organs are still developing and maturing,
  • in relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults, possibly increasing their exposure to pesticides in food and water.
  • certain behaviors–such as playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths–increase a child’s exposure to pesticides used in homes and yards.

I believe that Health Canada has provided more than adequate due diligence to protect me & my family.

Also in Play It Safe: “Health Canada does warn that ‘…pesticide application should only be done when there are no children, pregnant women, elderly persons, pets or animals present.’ …. Another federal government agency, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety advises, as with all chemical exposures, that it is good practice to use products as little as possible (or not at all) or to use a less toxic substance.”

There is no safe level for pesticide use, only levels of risk that may be more or less tolerable depend on the application. For cosmetic use, there is no level of risk which should be tolerated.

I do not want Manitoba to waste my tax dollars on a provincial pesticide ban that is unenforceable & ineffective.

A comprehensive ban on the sale and use of all cosmetic pesticides is neither unenforceable nor ineffective: no one can sell, no one can use. This is easy to enforce, likely at a low cost, and effective at restricting all inappropriate uses.

Examples from other provinces show that pesticide bans can be very effective at limiting pesticide use, especially where they are comprehensive in scope and of pesticides regulated. In 1994, Statistics Canada reported that 30% of both Manitoba and Quebec households used pesticides for their lawns or garden. By 2005, just after the introduction of a cosmetic pesticide ban in Quebec, that figure had dropped to 15%. In Manitoba, the number of cosmetic pesticide users increased to 44%, one of the highest rates in Canada. Pesticide bans do make a difference.

I do not want my property value to decline due to uncontrollable weeds, insects or disease.

It won’t. Any ban would be province-wide so would have no impact on the relative value of private properties. There is no evidence that, or logical reason why, a pesticide ban would stop people from moving to the province and impact overall property values.

There are currently cosmetic pesticide bans in five provinces, affecting the majority of Canada’s population. There is no evidence of a widespread decline in property values in Canada attributed to cosmetic pesticide bans.

I believe that a well-maintained landscape promotes well-being & a sense of community pride.

Positive relationships promote a sense of community pride. Physical health promotes well-being. Cosmetic pesticides are not a long term solution for either. By relying on cosmetic pesticides, homeowners can become trapped on a chemical treadmill that undermines the long term health of their home and garden.

Many of the most beautiful landscapes and gardens, including Winnipeg’s own Legislature Garden, are maintained pesticide free. To see beautiful examples from across Canada, check out David Suzuki Digs My Garden.

I feel that Manitoba’s parks & sports fields encourage physical activity & I do not want them to deteriorate due to weeds, insects or disease.

Physical activity is important for children. From Play It Safe: “In 2007, a study by the David Suzuki Foundation found that more than 6,000 cases of pesticide poisonings are reported in Canada each year. Of those, 2,832 cases involved children.”

Many children are unable to enjoy outdoor activities because of allergies or respiratory ailments that may be brought on by pesticide use.  Beyond Pesticides documents a wide range of diseases associated with pesticide use including asthma.

I do not want a small but vocal activist group to speak for me.

No activist group (or progressive blogs) claim to speak for Manitobans, but people can learn a lot from the research and analysis of independent citizens and third parties.

The following are some of the Canadian organizations that support a ban on cosmetic pesticides: the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, the Parkinson Society of Canada, the Western Canada and the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. Environmental organizations, unions and child welfare groups have also joined the call for stronger cosmetic pesticide regulation. These organizations will not profit from a ban.

The importance of charities speaking out on important public policy issues is recognized by the federal government in the Canada Revenue Agency‘s policy statement on political activities by charities:

“Through their dedicated delivery of essential programs, many charities have acquired a wealth of knowledge about how government policies affect people’s lives. Charities are well placed to study, assess, and comment on those government policies. Canadians benefit from the efforts of charities and the practical, innovative ways they use to resolve complex issues related to delivering social services. Beyond service delivery, their expertise is also a vital source of information for governments to help guide policy decisions. It is therefore essential that charities continue to offer their direct knowledge of social issues to public policy debates.”

These organizations have experience at the deadly risks we impose on society and nature with our frivolous use of toxic chemicals. Governments and all Manitobans should head their warnings.

The Province of Manitoba has requested public input on concerns around and possible regulation of cosmetic pesticides. To participate in the public consultation on cosmetic pesticides, send comments to minconws@leg.gov.mb.ca.

Listen to our conversation with Cathy Hellsten of Campaign for Pesticide Reduction on Mud and Water Radio.

This is the postcard the Pro-Cosmetic Pesticide Lobby has put out:

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