I recently presented the David Suzuki Foundation's support for banning lawn and garden pesticides to B.C.'s special legislative committee on cosmetic pesticides.
The multi-party committee of MLAs was convened by Premier Christy Clark in the summer to study a proposed provincewide ban on so-called cosmetic pesticides — chemicals used to improve the appearance of lawns and gardens. The committee wants to hear from you, too. Please take a moment now to indicate your support for a provincewide ban by filling in the questionnaire on the committee's website, or sending a message via the Foundation's action site.
Exposure to pesticides has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, reproductive problems and neurological disorders. Children are particularly vulnerable — and they're the ones most likely to be rolling around in the grass. Pesticides can also harm wildlife, including bees and other pollinating insects vital for our food supply. The clincher is these risks are completely unnecessary and unjustifiable. It's easy to switch to non-toxic gardening products and practices to protect the health of children and the environment.
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And most British Columbians are ready to make that switch. Polling conducted by the Canadian Cancer Society consistently finds that more than 70 per cent of British Columbians support a ban on cosmetic pesticides.
In my presentation to the committee, I explained the findings of the David Suzuki Foundation's progress report on provincial cosmetic pesticide bans. In a nutshell, banning cosmetic pesticides is no longer uncharted territory in Canada. Since Quebec introduced the first provincial ban in 2003, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have followed suit. Our analysis compared the approaches in these five provinces and concluded that Ontario and Nova Scotia currently offer the best models. Both provinces allow only products that present a low risk to human health and the environment and prohibit all other pesticides on lawns and gardens.
There is still room for improvement. All five provinces with cosmetic pesticide bans allow exemptions that could be better controlled or eliminated. For example, the bans typically do not apply to golf courses. (Denmark, on the other hand, recently announced regulations to reduce pesticide use on golf courses.)
B.C. now has an opportunity to build on the experience of other provinces and raise the bar with an even stronger ban.
In the absence of provincial action, 39 B.C. municipalities have adopted pesticide bylaws. Provincial legislation to ban cosmetic pesticides would extend this protection provincewide. Note: the province has the power to regulate pesticide sales, as well, whereas municipal bylaws can only regulate pesticide use. Pulling the prohibited products from B.C. store shelves is the best way to make sure they aren't used.
Ontario and Nova Scotia have already test-driven the strongest bans in the country. With these models in place, and with broad-based support from B.C. voters, health and environmental leaders and municipalities, introducing an effective pesticide ban in B.C. should be straight-forward.
This isn't the first time the B.C. government has studied the issue of a cosmetic pesticide ban. Two years ago, the Environment Ministry consulted the public on "new statutory protections to further safeguard our environment from cosmetic chemical pesticides." Most submissions supported a provincewide ban, but the contemplated "statutory protections" are still nowhere in sight. The government should stop dithering and pass legislation banning the use of cosmetic pesticides at the earliest opportunity.
Premier Clark pledged her support for a provincewide ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides last spring, just as the official Opposition prepared to introduce — for the third year in a row — a private member's bill to do just that.
With the leaders of both parties in agreement, will B.C. become the next province to prohibit lawn and garden chemicals?
Let's make it happen!
If you live in B.C., tell the special legislative committee that you you support a ban on the sale and use of pesticides used solely for cosmetic purposes. Click here to send an email to the legislative committee. Even better, go to the committee's web site and fill in the questionnaire.
The most important question to answer is question 2. Be sure to click "Yes, I support a ban on pesticides".