Main Picture
Making the Right Choice for the Protection of Health and
the Environment Report of the Standing Committee on
Environment and Sustainable Development
Page One of Four
Turf Line News Editor's comment:
The WCTA Board wants you as a member to be informed about such issues when they arise. By being better informed, you can make knowledgeable comments to those with whom you are in contact. Be careful in your comments to others because much of the hype of this report is based on emotion; and when you try to counter emotion with scientific fact/s you usually get no where. It has been said that "a person sitting on a stool, playing a guitar and singing has more power in swaying peoples' opinions faster that a train load of solid scientific information."

Some questions to ask when you read this are: - Will decisions be based on good science or opinions and emotions? - Will the current media hype on the turfgrass / cosmetic pesticide use cover up the whole of this report including its impact on agriculture?

- What is cosmetic who will decide?
- What is risk and who will decide?
- Have they consulted with the agriculture community in preparing this document?
- Will they take into account Integrated Pest Management?
- Can pesticide use be compared with smoking?

If you don't take time to read all of this report, please at least take the time to read the italic print. The italic print is created by the TLN Editor to draw your attention to specific portions.

Another development in the Canadian Parliament to keep an eye on: In November Bill C-388 was introduced as a private members bill by Liberal MP Marlene Jennings from the Hudson area of Quebec. You will find the text of Bill C-388 is at the end of this article. Fortunately this bill has not gotten any further than first reading at this printing.

In the May 22, 2000, issue of the GTI Advisor Rob Witherspoon wrote; "Last week the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development released their report on pesticide use. The report paints the "cosmetic" use of pesticides with the same brush as tobacco. One major recommendation is that a new Pest Control Act "prohibit the registration and re-registration of pesticides intended for cosmetic uses". The report does not clearly define the "cosmetic" use of pesticides, either in terms of recreational and economic value of pesticide use or the agricultural use of pesticides to protect the aesthetic qualities of produce.

"It is not clear what action the government will take in response to the report. A bill aimed at limiting pesticide use was introduced earlier this year (see The GTI Advisor 5(3) - April 10, 2000). The official opposition in parliament has labeled the report "unbalanced and based more on hysteria than on sound science" and have produced a dissenting report. The main report recommendations, if moved into legislation, obviously will have a significant impact on the way the turf and landscape industry conducts its business. The full text of the report is available on the Internet at: Studies/Reports/envi01-e.html

The following report, tabled in mid-May 2000, will have an affect on the turfgrass industry in some way. BE PREPARED. We shall continue to watch this issue as it is played out.

During the past twelve months the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development of the House of Commons has studied not only the extent of, and the reasons for, the use of pesticides, but also their impact on human health and the environment. We have also studied the economic implications of their use and the administrative responsibility for regulating them.

Clearly, as a society, we have become very dependent on the use of pesticides. This does not mean, however, that we are unable to alter such practices. We can all think of other products which were once widely used in our society and today have been abandoned because of changes in values and attitude. Prime examples include the use of tobacco, asbestos and lead. The major shift with respect to public acceptance of smoking would not have been contemplated two decades ago. The same can be said about the use of lead in gasoline -- now mostly a thing of the past -- yet deeply entrenched when the first concerns about its neurotoxicity emerged. A similar pattern can be found in the use of asbestos in buildings, once prevalent and now banned. As we all know, governments act with greater speed and resolution when clear arguments are made about dangers posed to public health. At times governments have acted without waiting for the smoking gun, but at other times reluctantly due to competing views by sectoral interests. In the meantime, the public bore the costs of protracted inaction, be it in the form of pulmonary diseases and cancer in the case of tobacco and asbestos, or in the form of lower IQs and learning disabilities in children, as in the case of lead. With pesticides, we have good reasons to worry about public health, safety and the special vulnerability of our children. Public health groups, including family physicians, were very forceful and persuasive in expressing to the Committee their deep concerns about the current pervasive use of pesticides in our society. Citizens are not waiting for the smoking gun to act; they are taking action to reduce, and in some cases ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes in their communities.

When we looked at the economic side of this issue, a key question emerged: can our present food production and distribution systems, which are so integral to our daily lives, survive in the absence of pesticides? The frank answer is that our reliance on pesticides in agriculture is so overwhelming, it would be impossible for us to abandon their use in the short term. Unfortunately, there is no replacement system readily available, no instant or magic solution. There is much debate as to whether an adequate food supply, at a reasonable price for consumers and a lesser cost to farmers, can be brought to market without pesticides. When could organic farming become an economically viable alternative for farmers and consumers and under what conditions?

The European Union (EU) has experienced a remarkable growth in organic agriculture in the last decade, particularly in Austria, Finland, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden, due to the introduction of EU and national grants. The land being farmed organically in Europe has increased about eight times between 1987 and 1997, with Austria leading the way. The European Union's aim is to have 2.5% of all farms in organic production by early this year while the Austrian government has set a target of 20%. The Committee hearings made us aware that we should have started long before now to plan and build such a replacement system in Canada, in light of the strong evidence that chemical pesticides are detrimental to our environment, health and particularly our children's health.

We looked at the current system of regulating pesticides in Canada and we asked ourselves whether it is possible for one agency, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), to perform two virtually conflicting tasks, namely that of approving chemical pesticides as requested by industry while at the same time regulating them in order to protect human health. We asked ourselves whether it is possible to strike a balance between economic and health protection goals. The Minister of Health described the conflict himself on May 28, 1999 in Question Period when he said: the PMRA has to balance public safety and environmental concerns against the needs of producers and growers.

We found, however, that pesticides are highly poisonous substances designed to kill living organisms and are thus potentially harmful to workers using them and to farming and urban communities unknowingly exposed as well as to consumers. Therefore, we asked ourselves whether a regulatory system could be designed that would give clear and absolute precedence to human health. Based on our findings, it must be designed as such.

The choice facing us is clear: either to continue with our chronic dependence on pesticides to the detriment of the environment, agricultural sustainability and human health or, to give public health protection clear precedence. We have already done so with tobacco, lead and asbestos. Pesticides should be next.

Charles Caccia Member of Parliament for Davenport Ottawa, May 2000

Click here for second page EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Click here for fourth BILL C-388

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