Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vernon BC Star: Lawn Care Operator Speaks Out


Over the past few months, the topic of pesticide safety has been in the news quite regularly. Most newspaper articles seem to concern groups wishing to have "cosmetic" pesticides banned. These groups base these demands on scientific data claimed to support their case that these pesticides are problematic to humans, animals, and the environment. They also demand these bans be put in effect based on the precautionary principle, that they may, or they might cause cancer, or some other disease in humans.

I’d like to look at each of these purposes that these groups use for demanding a ban.

1. They claim that there is scientific data which supports the claim that cosmetic pesticide exposure has been linked to adult and childhood cancers. What should be done with these studies? What should you do if you had evidence of criminal intent? Where should you go with this information? The answer should be obvious. Any, and all data which conclusively shows a link to human harm, ought to be brought to the governing body (Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency) that regulates the material said to be toxic. The PMRA has 350 qualified scientists (not paid by the industry) to review such evidence. Has this been done? I am assuming it has. Was the evidence lacking? I’m assuming it was.
If any product has not been prohibited by the PMRA, then the evidence for harm is lacking. The medicine you take must also be approved by Health Canada. Why are so many willing to trust Health Canada has correctly reviewed the studies regarding the safely of their medicine, but not that for pesticides? Pesticides are the most regulated substances in Canada.

2. It appears that another step taken by those opposed to the use of "cosmetic" pesticides is to create fear in the Canadian public by stating that "cosmetic" pesticides may cause cancer, or any number of other illnesses. You will not be able to find a statement from a qualified scientist that says that they do. Repeat it often enough and it may begin to ring as true. Creating this anxiety, and then offering a solution such as banning "cosmetic pesticides" is insidious, particularly so when the pesticides can not proven to be at fault.

Those creating these fears claim to have the answer, a watered down version of the United Nations Precautionary Principle: “When the activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken ….” The UN version of the principle (the Rio Declaration of 1992) declares that the activity must create “serious and irreversible” harm to be considered under this principle.

This more sensible definition is not the one generally used by those using scare tactics. Simply paraphrased, the Principle states that if something threatens to do harm, eliminate it. Such an all encompassing statement, if taken literally, would have us ban ladders (you might fall off), and would never have allowed airplanes to get off the ground (you might crash).

It is the leading competent authority, the regulatory body of the PMRA (not unqualified, anti-pesticide groups), that should be in charge of deciding what products are safe enough when applied properly. The method of misleading the public in a debate based on fear is shameful, and bullying. Don’t lose your right on unfounded science (to date).

I don’t have all the answers. I follow the regulations (integrated pest management) put in front of me by those who are there to protect the health of the community. I do not like that I now have to lobby the government to not ban "cosmetic’" pesticides that have been registered by the proper authority and certified as safe to use.
I’m certain that there will be many opinions sent in to the B.C. government during the consultation process. I will send in mine with as little qualifications as I have, realizing that any decision on pesticides should be based on science, as defined by real scientists.

If you are opposed to a prohibition of the pesticides you use, fill in the short form at

Henry van der Molen,
Supergreen Lawn and Tree Care

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