By David F. Rooney
There are 168 municipalities in Canada, including 31 here in British Columbia, that have passed bylaws banning the use of cosmetic pesticides. Will Revelstoke join their ranks?
So far, the City has since May 2009 voluntarily stopped using granular and liquid cosmetic pesticides on all public lands (except the golf course) while Public Works Department staff investigate the possibility of such a ban. They are expected to report back to Council in August.
The community meanwhile has been quietly going green. Drive around town and you’ll see “Pesticide Free” lawn signs popping up here and there. Drop by Home Hardware and ask for a week killer and staff will first tell you all about the green products that do not rely on synthetic poisons to kill noxious plants. The stuff that contains 2, 4-d and other toxins are the last things they’ll recommend. They will sell it if you insist, but they admittedly prefer to sell the green stuff. As for Rona, they don’t carry any artificial pesticides.
“If you want to kill weeds you can do it without these (synthetic chemical pesticides),” said Maryann Krestinsky, one of Home Hardware’s staff trained to handle pesticides. In fact, you can kill most of the weeds in your lawn with ordinary vinegar.
Sounds easy enough. So why is this not a simple thing to do?
Well, as is to be expected, the landscaping industry and the manufacturers of synthetic chemical pesticides want to water down if not outright prevent the enactment of strong anti-pesticide bylaws.
At least one of them have made direct contact with City Councillors, the news media and environmental organizations and at least one lobbyist has gone so far as to threaten legal action against Revelstoke groups opposed to pesticides. (You can read that for yourself here.)
Fortunately, even Mayor David Raven, who admits to being “skeptical about the science” that shows a link between cosmetic pesticides and cancer, says it’s ultimately “up to the community.”
That depends entirely on local citizens’ willingness to lobby for a ban on the use of chemical poisons on public and private lands.
So where do Revelstokians stand?
As far as North Columbia Environmental Society President Sarah Newton is concerned, “we really don’t need more poison in the environment.”
She points to Revelstoke’s location hard by the Columbia River and wonders: “What happens to all the 2,4-d — all the toxins that leach into the river? They don’t just go away. What are they doing to our fish populations?”
Dr. Warren Bell, past president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, wonders if people who say they have “doubts about the science” that links pesticides to cancer also have doubts about the link between tobacco and cancer.
“Asking the pesticide industry for its views on the research is like asking Big Tobacco for its views on smoking and cancer,” he said in an interview. “What do you think they are going to say?”
The website maintained by the Integrated Environmental Plant Management Association of Western Canada, which bills itself as “mainly educational,” contains the agenda for its annual conference. One of the speakers is a chap called Jeffrey Lowes who is described as director for government and industrial relations for a Kingston, Ont., based outfit called M-Rep. According to the agenda Lowes speech to the conference focused on municipal bylaws:
“Although we do not question the ability of a municipality to create a bylaw, there is still an onus of fiduciary responsibility on behalf of a municipality to verify information presented when is the basis of that bylaw. The question is: should the debate take place in a courtroom and be subject to rules of evidence? In the courtroom, facts always outweigh hearsay when the debate is subjected to the rules of evidence. To date, municipal and provincial pesticide bans have ignored the scientific facts in favour of the pseudo-science and misrepresentations of the activists.”
Well, that was a mouthful, wasn’t it?
What you may not know is that Jeffrey Lowes is a former insurance agent whose M-Rep Communications is — essentially — a lobby group. Its so-called Mission Statement reads: “Our mission is to ensure that proper science and not the court of public opinion governs good environmental stewardship and policy development that may affect many types of industry. MREP Communications supports the development of sound environmental policy and assists with ensuring that the majority has a clear, unified voice.”
Lowes sounds serious and he actually tried to stop the province of Ontario from banning cosmetic pesticides. His suit was slapped down by an Ontario court, which obviously must have been biased against the lawn-care industry’s true scientific evidence in favour of the environmentalists’ biased pseudo science and bogus medical research. You can read more about Ontario’s ban — doubtless based on the same bad science Lowe and his ilk despise — here.