Cross-country pesticide checkup:
The debate continues

If you think the pesticide issue is going to go away — think again. With an overabundance of information availableto either prove or disprove the harmful effects of pesticides on humans and our environment, the great pesticide debate has taken on a whole new level of significance. What was once a battle between science and emotion, fought on the airwaves and in the pages of our daily newspapers, has evolved into a new era of legal confrontations.

     Landscape Trades went across the country to determine how the industry is dealing with new regulations, bans and the very real possibility of new legal precedents governing the use of pesticides, and their predictions for the future.

Integrated Pest Management in BC:
An update

By: Rob Adams, IPM Licensing and Certification Coordinator, BC Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is not a new topic in British Columbia (BC). In fact, BC has promoted IPM through BC Environment and BC Agriculture and various provincial industry groups for the past 10 years.

     A key step in the IPM movement occurred in 1991 with the appointment of Dr. Linda Gilkeson, IPM specialist for the BC Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. In this position, Dr. Gilkeson has been a strong advocate of IPM and has encouraged and assisted industry groups, government agencies and individual pest managers to endorse IPM. The following is an overview of IPM in BC and an update of the program over the past decade.

     A definition of IPM was incorporated in the BC Pesticide Control Act in 1997 as follows:

Integrated Pest Management — a decision-making process that uses a combination of techniques to suppress pests and which must include but is not limited to the following elements:
  1. planning and managing ecosystems to prevent organisms from becoming pests;
  2. identifying potential pest problems;
  3. monitoring populations of pests and beneficial organisms, pest damage and environmental conditions;
  4. using injury thresholds in making treatment decisions;
  5. reducing pest populations to acceptable levels using strategies that may include a combination of biological, physical, cultural, mechanical, behavioural and chemical controls;
  6. evaluating the effectiveness of treatments.

     The goal of the BC Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks is to ensure that all pesticides are used only within an IPM program. Experience shows that applying IPM methods eliminates unnecessary pesticide use.

     Pest prevention is fundamental to an IPM program. When pests occur, it is necessary to ensure pests are identified and to conduct a monitoring program to determine the numbers of pests and natural enemies present.

     A key concept in IPM is that it is necessary to take action only when pest numbers warrant it, not as a routine measure. Deciding when to take action involves establishing an injury level, which is when a pest population causes an unacceptable amount of damage and an action level, which is when a particular control should be applied to keep pest numbers from reaching the injury level. If treatments are warranted, pest managers should consider and ideally use a number of different options, selected to minimize impact on the environment. Finally, evaluation is a critical component to determine what worked and where improvements could be made.

     Lack of training and information is often cited as an obstacle to the wider adoption of IPM methods. BC Environment is now incorporating IPM training into the requirements for pesticide applicator certification. A new manual titled IPM Manual for Landscape Pests in BC was prepared in 2000 and is now part of the study package for landscape applicators. This manual describes basic IPM principles as follows:
  • a detailed description of IPM components;
  • how service providers can move from IPM theory to practical application of IPM;
  • pest control methods commonly used in landscape IPM programs, including mechanical, physical and biological controls, as well as least-toxic pesticides;
  • separate chapters outlining IPM programs for subgroups of pests, including general vegetation management, weeds, insects and diseases in turf, insects and mites in nurseries and greenhouses, on ornamentals and trees, and diseases on ornamentals and trees; and
  • safe use guidelines for landscape pesticide treatments.

     The IPM manual can be viewed on the website at (click on Integrated Pest Management). The BC Landscape and Nursery Association (BCLNA) recently published a brochure on IPM for Landscapes, indicating BCLNA’s endorsement of IPM techniques.

     IPM workshops and seminars have also been an effective way to share information and help train pest managers. Many details in the new IPM manual were generated from the first workshops with landscapers. The BC Environment IPM coordinator continues to make presentations to train new recruits on basic principles and to promote development of new and improved IPM techniques. It is important the landscape industry ensures there are ongoing opportunities for IPM training since IPM information is rapidly expanding and pest managers will need to upgrade their knowledge regularly.

Industry successfully lobbies against pesticide ban in Calgary

By Jim Nix, Nutri-Lawn Calgary

When the Sierra Club lobbied the City of Calgary, in June 2000, to ban the use of pesticides on all city-owned property, city council sent this contentious issue to city administration for study and recommendation by November 29, 2000.

     Almost immediately, a group of stakeholders formed to provide alternate points of view to a ban on pesticides. Three years earlier, the Parks and Recreation Department had voluntarily implemented an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Using IPM strategies, the city was able to reduce the amount of pesticides applied to city-owned properties by 80 per cent. Having reduced their chemical use so drastically, landscape managers at the city recognized they couldn’t reduce their use of horticultural chemicals anymore without loss of quality of the turf or surrounding park lands.

     In short order, Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), Alberta Environment and members of the horticulture industry joined the task force at the request of the City of Calgary Parks and Recreation Department to provide input from all points of view.

     In order to argue successfully against the proposed ban we needed to know the places where pesticides were being used most often. The Alberta Environment determined that two-thirds of the pesticides sold in our province were used by homeowners in weed and feed products. According to Alberta Environment statistics, homeowners were the biggest offenders of pesticide use and abuse. Realizing the best tact was to suggest a solution that would have the greatest impact on pesticide reduction, the industry task force suggested the City of Calgary begin a homeowner education program. The intent of the proposed program was to reduce the application of 2,4-D in the city by homeowners.

     Using the city’s successful IPM program as an example, the task force proposed a joint education program that would be supported by the City of Calgary, Alberta Environment and Landscape Alberta.

     Upon receiving administration’s report in November, the City Council voted down the idea of a pesticide ban and supported the proactive idea of a homeowner education program.

     To date, the Parks and Recreation Department have allocated $60,000 (minimum) toward this worthy project. Some city area garden centres and Alberta Environment have committed funding as well. A sub-committee has been set up to determine the best practices and develop the program that will teach plant health care principles to homeowners.

Pesticides in Ontario
By Darcy Olds, Weed Man

Ontario has had its own hot spots for pesticide issue related concerns in 2000. Many municipalities across the province looked at their usage of pest control products in the landscape on city owned property and made some significant adjustments in response to pressure encountered from special interest groups. Included in a list of cities that have been wrestling with the pesticide issue are Stratford, Windsor, Hamilton, Brantford, Orillia, Burlington, and most recently Owen Sound. The list appears to grow on a regular basis. Many of the municipalities in Ontario have opted for a more reasonable approach, which includes implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs to utilize pesticides more judiciously. This is in keeping with government’s response to the “Standing Committee report on the Environment.” One such solution, a Healthy Lawns Education Campaign, includes education on IPM. Other municipalities have put their pest management and weed control programs on hold entirely in an effort to cut costs, and in some cases, avoid controversy created by local activist groups.

     Industry’s lobby efforts in 2000 focused primarily on the federal government. Most attention was devoted to diffusing the Standing Committee Report on the Environment and Marlene Jenning’s private members bill (both of which called for a moratorium on cosmetic pesticide use). Several industry associations played a role in the successful outcome of these issues, including the Urban Pest Management Council, Landscape Ontario (LO) and the Professional Lawn Care Association of America. Some professional lawn care companies also actively participated in the lobby effort and met with several Members of Parliament to discuss the Standing Committee report and its potential impact on our livelihoods. In September, Weed Man representatives met with the federal Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief to lobby on industry’s behalf. Also in September, a group of professional lawn care companies, including Greenspace Services, Nutrilawn and Weed Man met with John Dossiter, a key advisor at the time for federal Health Minister Alan Rock.

     LO also met with a number of federal MPs. On the provincial level, they met with Honourable Dan Newman, Ontario’s Environment Minister to discuss the issue of pesticides and the province’s current regulatory authority. Executive Director Tony DiGiovanni and member Dan Passmore of Frechette Lawncare had a useful meeting with the Environment Minister last summer to discuss the importance of the provincial government maintaining pesticide regulatory authority.

     Along with federal and provincial lobbying, industry participated in municipal pesticide hearings in 2000. One such meeting in Windsor last September saw city councilors and the Mayor hold a public meeting to investigate a potential ban on the use of pesticides on city parks and other public areas. Many local activist groups gave presentations at the meeting in support of a ban on the use of pesticides on city property. Lorne Hepworth from the Urban Pest Management Council along with Don Sadler, Director of Parks for the City of Windsor, Parks Department helped to convince the city to take a more reasonable approach. This approach involves using pesticides more judiciously in an IPM program.

     Another example of an area where industry played a key role in addressing the pesticide related concerns was the city of Stratford, ON. Stratford is one of the most active cities across Canada about the media’s report of the pesticide controversy. Its local newspaper, the Stratford Beacon Herald was relentless in the year 2000, printing countless negative, sensationalized articles and editorials concerning pesticides. City council endured a tremendous amount of pressure from a local activist group to stop using pesticides on city property. A committee was formed to investigate the use of pesticides on city property. Randy McCord, Weed Man — Stratford joined the committee. Among other efforts, the committee arranged for a general information session to take place regarding pesticides. Dr. Len Ritter from the Canadian Centre for Toxicology and Wayne Roberts from LO spoke at the meeting to address some of the public concern. The efforts of the committee to bring some balance to the issue have been somewhat successful to date. The City of Stratford continues to use pesticides in an effort to protect particular areas of its greenspaces, but has implemented a pesticide reduction program for sensitive areas.

     This year will be another challenging year for all members of the horticulture industry. As mentioned, the number of municipalities that are making pesticides an issue continues to grow. The fact that many municipalities are strapped financially and have little or no expertise or qualifications (or the time) to properly evaluate pesticides has not reduced their interest in this matter. Industry will have to become very active on the grassroots level this year to provide municipalities with the information they require to make an informed decision on pesticides.

Pesticide battle long from over: An update from Hudson, Quebec
By Rita Weerdenburg

The words “Hudson, Quebec” have come to epitomize the struggle between environmental activists and industry professionals and their respective quests to control the use of pesticides as a landscape maintenance tool. This is a struggle that has been at the forefront of the pesticide debate for more than 10 years.

     In 1991, a Quebec court upheld the City of Hudson’s (a suburb of Montreal) decision to pass a by-law that banned the use of pesticides on both private and public land for all but a few restrictive uses, such as golf courses and agriculture. This ruling has since been challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada by Chemlawn and Spraytech, primarily on the constitutional grounds that a pesticide ban restricts the free choice of citizens to use products that have been tested and deemed safe by the federal government, and whose use is also further regulated and therefore legally authorized by provincial laws across the country.

     There were two other intervener groups besides the City of Hudson. Environmental and public action groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, the Federation of Municipalities and Nature Action Quebec were all funded primarily by the Sierra Club Legal Defence Fund. All involved parties submitted written presentations to the court last year. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on December 7, 2000. Although a decision could come sooner, it is not expected until at least June or July of this year.

     This case and the implications of its outcome to the lawn care industry across Canada are the cause of much speculation. While the testing and registration of pesticides is a federal matter, actual pesticide use is a provincial jurisdiction and as such, varies from province to province. In the province of Ontario, for instance, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has always been reluctant to download this responsibility to the municipalities. Recent events in Walkerton have reinforced their resolve in this matter. As a consequence, the efforts of a number of municipalities to follow Hudson’s lead have been seriously impeded.

     It is not clear whether a Supreme Court decision about a Quebec ruling will have the ability to set a new precedence in other provinces. What is clear, however, is that regardless of the outcome, the issue of pesticide use will continue to plague industry for years to come.

Halifax takes voluntary approach to phased-in pesticide ban
By Rita Weerdenburg

Over the past few years, small but volatile hotspots have emerged across the country as various environmental groups look to capitalize on opportunities to ban the use of pesticides, especially for lawn maintenance activities. For their part, industry is often left in the unfortunate position of having to react as best as they can to these various initiatives.

     The City of Halifax, NS became a hotspot a number of years ago through a single case of alleged Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MSC). Since that time, the City’s attempts to deal with the pesticide issue have often left the lawn care and maintenance industries struggling to keep up with continually changing standards and regulations.

     According to industry spokesperson Jeff Morton, the Pesticide Advisory Committee (PAC) made the recommendations to Halifax City Council, which was to include representation from both environmental groups as well as industry. “With only one industry and numerous environmental groups represented on the committee, of course, it soon became unbalanced and the industry was forced to walk away from what was an obviously flawed process,” says Morton of the process that saw the committee determining a list of acceptable products. “The industry said no one at the table was qualified to make those choices, and were forced to leave. The committee continued in the absence of industry members to create a list of permitted pesticides.”

     With support from various industry groups from across the country, lobbying efforts were continued, however, and city councillors, finding themselves bombarded with conflicting information and looking for a suitable middle ground that still met their mandate of protecting public health and safety, instead elected to implement a phased-in ban of pesticides, which is confusing to just about everyone.

     Legislation, passed on August 19, 2000 and scheduled to come into effect on April 1, 2001, will have a serious impact on the lawn care industry. “Probably the most worrying consequence is the confusion about how this legislation works,” says Morton. The immediate target is specific, but limited to public areas and residential areas surrounding properties such as day care centres and churches. A notification system of those persons not wishing to have pesticides sprayed within a specific perimeter of their private properties, is also in effect Those people must have a medical reason. And although the initial estimates that hundreds of homeowners would register to be a part of this notification system has not yet materialized (as of March 12th, 24 have registered), the system nonetheless makes it difficult for LCOs to schedule their regular maintenance activities, says Morton. To add to the confusion, the ban applies only to residential and not to commercial properties. In an effort to hedge their bets against any negative outcome of a pesticide ban, the city will make special permits available to contractors when necessary to deal with problematic infestations. And, as in other jurisdictions, Halifax’s LCOs are exasperated that while these regulations do apply to homeowners, it does not apply to the sale of the product, and homeowners are still able to use any product commercially available at their local garden centre or hardware store.

     Probably the most frustrating aspect of all, says Morton, is the reality that the City’s lack of resources to enforce these new by-laws will make the phase-in of the pesticide ban a voluntary system.

     While there is a commitment from the City to educate the public about sustainable landscape management, this is obviously a long-term project that will do little to solve industry’s immediate concerns. Industry itself needs to look at longer-term solutions, says Morton, with Integrated Pest Management strategies being the obvious first choice.