Photo: Committee passes the buck on pesticide-free B.C.

(Credit: gribley via Flickr)

By Lisa Gue, environmental health policy analyst

The long-awaited report from B.C.'s special legislative committee on cosmetic pesticides was not worth the wait. The committee had been mulling over a province-wide ban on lawn chemicals for close to a year, ever since Premier Christy Clark announced her support for a ban and appointed the committee to consider how to proceed.

Unfortunately, it seems the committee missed the point. It is deeply disappointing that after all that mulling, the report, released May 17, does not even recommend a ban. Instead, it proposes a series of toothless measures and tries to pass the buck on the main issue: "Committee members representing the majority are satisfied with how the [federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency] registers and reevaluates pesticides and are confident with the scientific integrity of the federal processes."

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The use of pesticides to improve the appearance of lawns and gardens represents a needless risk to the environment and human health. A ban would help to protect those most vulnerable, notably children. But in areas of shared jurisdiction, it's always tempting for lawmakers to make it sound like someone else is responsible for a decision. Pesticide regulation is no exception, and B.C.'s legislative committee jumped feet first into this trap. Rather than delivering serious recommendations for shaping a B.C. ban, this report defers the issue back to federal regulators.

But the federal regulatory regime has gaps. For starters, the federal risk assessments assume that pesticides are used according to label instructions — a leap of faith. Then there's the limitation that each pesticide is assessed on its own with no consideration of the combined effects of multiple chemical exposures. Nor does the federal registration system weigh the need for pesticides whose only purpose is to improve the appearance of lawns and gardens.

In other words, is the risk, however small, worth it? Moreover, many pesticides previously approved through the federal risk assessment process have later been banned as new information emerged about health and environmental hazards, and dozens of active ingredients in pesticides approved in Canada are not permitted in other countries. It is well within a province's mandate to take precautionary action now to eliminate unnecessary chemical exposures.

Six Canadian provinces — and 40 B.C. municipalities — have already banned the cosmetic use of pesticides. These governments are taking seriously the provincial role in pesticide regulation. Applying the precautionary principle, they moved to address gaps in the federal regime when it comes to the completely unnecessary hazards posed by the use of pesticides to improve the appearance of lawns and gardens.

Of the 7,300 comments submitted to the B.C. legislative committee this winter, nearly 5,000 supported a ban. The committee report also notes that some MLAs on the committee (although not the majority) were likewise in favour of a ban. A province-wide ban on the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides is an appropriate and manageable expression of provincial authorities that would protect public health and the environment from an avoidable chemical hazard.

It's been a year since the premier pledged her support for a ban. "We are going to do it," she told reporters. The committee process stalled the issue in the legislature for a year. The premier should go beyond the recommendations in the committee report and finally make good on her promise. It's time for B.C. to catch up with the rest of the country and go for truly green lawns and gardens.

May 17, 2012
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/panther-lounge/2012/05/committee-passes-the-buck-on-pesticide-free-bc/

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7 Comments

Jun 25, 2012
10:31 AM

THE PESTICIDE FREE BC CAMPAIGN MUST JOIN THE WORLD WIDE FIGHT AGAINST NEONICOTOID INSECTICIDES TO UP THE ANTE. Very unfortunate about the Pesticide Free BC decision, but I don't think that focusing on just cosmetic pesticides provides enough heat, pressure or embarassment for our government or catch enough attention by the public. To up the ante, I suggest it is time to blow the whistle on a group of pestcides used in BC and Canada that is a disaster in the making the likes we have not seen before. I am talking about the neonicotinoid insecticides. The Pesticide Free BC Campaign must expand its scope to quickly turn off the devastating lethal and long term sublethal effects these poisons are having on all life in BC, Canada and the rest of the world. I see why the media is ignoring this PR time bomb. This issue is way more than insecticides killing bees. David, please do a documentary on these poisons ASP. These likely endocrine disruptors starting to show up on Canadian surface water have all the badness of organochlorine insecticides described by Rachael Carson in 1962 and more. Neonicotinoids are the most common insecticides used worldwide on farms. Yes, they registered for use in BC and how they did get registered in Canada is another story. These insecticides are are completely systemic and residual in all plants, and in the soil, they are water soluble and move water. Their nature changes the nature of dust during soil application and the sap of plants going into nectar and pollen turns into even more deadly poisons that are sticking around in hives and the environment for years. Experience here, in the USA, Europe, Japan etc shows they take out ALL insects in the area they are used with devastating cascading effects on all food chains involving insects and arthropods. Effects are cumulative and long term and I learn that currently our legislation and lab infrastructure way out of date to effectively define the hazards to the mothers and children and those with immune system challenges. Here is an excellent summary article from the internet revealing the issues I am speaking about featuring Dr. Lo, at Harvard with comments from other bee decline scientists from other respected universities. www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/04/neonicotinoids-colony-collapse

May 21, 2012
1:32 AM

I wonder how much each member of that committee was paid in the course of the year to come up with that recommendation to maintain the status quo and do nothing? Clearly, 6 provinces and 40 BC Municipalities have examined the issue in depth and actually banned the use cosmetic use pesticides. Why is BC not following suit? It is not like we are the first province to make the ban. But will we be the last province to jump on board????? Disgusting.

May 18, 2012
9:07 PM

I am shocked by the final decision ! We learned the hard way with toxins like DDT. Should we not know better by now ? You'd think that after seeing medical professionals, cancer societies, and the like, rally against the use of pesticides, that that would speak volumes to the politicians. Why do these products have warning labels ? Why do people working in produce departments wear gloves ? Why is there a bee shortage ? Why have our cancer rates skyrocketed ? Why have we not had a province wide rally against pesticides ?

I can't help but agree with Sandie. Who's being paid off ?! Anne

May 18, 2012
6:54 AM

Since cosmetic pesticides were banned in Ontario in 2009, the appearance of lawns and gardens of former pesticide users in our area has not declined at all. This makes you wonder how anyone could have thought they were getting value for the money spent on chemical pesticides in the first place?

May 17, 2012
5:30 PM

Surprising how we culturally believe BC is a 'green' thinking society, yet practically no the case.

May 17, 2012
5:29 PM

It is beyond my comprehension why this ban did not happen. Someone is getting a perk or a payoff for this lack on environmental concern.

I am fed up with the bureaucrats putting corporations and political games ahead of the one thing that truly does sustain us — the earth.

May 17, 2012
5:28 PM

Wow BC — Ontario stolebyour lunch money on this one. I think it's the first time ever that Ontario has a more restrictive environmental reg. Congrats Ontario — c'mon BC, get with it!

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