May 13, 2002
Green Pencil:
Landscape Ontario opposes proposed ban on home and garden pest control products

By Wayne Roberts, Pest Management Information Coordinator, Landscape Ontario

Landscape Ontario (L.O.) opposes a parliamentary committee's recommendation to phase out and eliminate home and garden pesticides across Canada. Tabled in the House of Commons by the Standing Committee on Environmental and Sustainable Development, this report fails to provide a fair and balanced discussion on the pesticide controversy.
  • It fails to acknowledge that Canada has one of the most stringent regulatory systems in the world.
  • L.O. dismisses the view that turf and the urban landscape are luxury items which deserve low ranking in the priorities for human investment.
The report calls for the prohibition of "cosmetic" or "non-essential" pesticide use and defines such as "home gardens and recreational facilities such as parks and golf courses." Horticulture, in fact, confers enormous benefits to our environment and our quality of life. Plants modify air pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, trap particulate matter, supply oxygen, prevent soil erosion, modify micmlimates, reduce noise, reduce stress, filter ground water and provide psychological and physiological benefits. Healthy, well-maintained turf, free of flowering weeds also reduce problems with allergens and potentially fatal bee stings. Home lawns and sod-covered fields help reduce injury to children and others engaged in athletics or other outdoor activities. L.O. supports the role of Health Canada and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). All pesticides are registered by PMRA before they are approved for use. The Canadian regulatory system is very stringent and is also enhanced with additional regulatory actions through provincial legislation such as the Ontario Pesticides Act enforced by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE). This infrastructure is further supported and enhanced with resources from other ministries such as the Ontario Ministry ofAgriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the Ontario Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The landscape industry has been supportive of pesticide regulations and legislation:
  • LO. pushed for mandatory pesticide application licensing in the late 1980s.
  • The industry also pushed for the Registered Technicians licensing, which became effective January 1,2000.
  • The industry was directly involved in the 1990 regulations on posting of private and public lands where pesticides are applied by professional applicators.
  • The industry is proud of its 39th Pesticide Symposium, held in 2000.
The industry supports the recommendations that the protection of human health and the environment be the central priority of the PMRA and that it be backed by comprehensive research. The industry contends that this has been a strong mandate of landscape professionals in Ontario.
  • Since the late 1980s, the industry has closely followed and supported OMAFRA's Turf and Nursery AgriFax programs
  • The industry has supported programs such as OMAFRA's Food Systems 2002. Many professional applicators have already met or surpassed 50 per cent reduction in pesticide use.
  • The industry has been well-serviced by OMAFRA's specialists who continue to play an important role in the delivery of Integrated Pest Management workshops, study groups and training sessions.
L.O. does not support the committee's comment that "pesticides are highly poisonous substances" or that "agriculture continues its chronic dependence on pesticides."
  • The Ad hoc Panel on Pesticides and Cancer, which was supported by the National Cancer Institute of Canada (1997) concluded that "it was not aware of any definitive evidence to suggest that synthetic pesticides contribute significantly to overall cancer mortality."
  • L.O. agrees that further research is important, but, interim decisions such as the recent recommendations appear to be based on activism rather than science and research. Ontario has more than a 30-year history of research and extension emphasis on programs such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
  • IPM is strongly supported by institutions such as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the University of Guelph (including the Canadian Network of Toxicology), the OMAFRA, the Guelph Turfgrass Institute, the MOE (and its advisory group, the Ontario Pesticide Advisory Committee.)
  • Because these groups do not appear to have been part of the discussion, it can not be considered to be a balanced one.
Professional pesticide applicators and landscape managers view with dismay the targeting of our industry by environmental activists who use "safety concerns" rather than good science to move the risk assessment process forward. In the view of our industry, leading health and science organizations do not concur with many of the statements relating to public health and cancer. We are very concerned over mixed messages to the public.
  • "Our stance is pro-green, not pro-pesticide," says Tony DiGiovanni, executive director of L.O. "We endorse pesticide use as a last resort."
  • We believe that the best method to control pests is to provide material with optimum cultural conditions. Keeping a plant healthy through cultural practices will go a long way to reduce the need for chemical intervention. However, healthy plants, like people, sometimes succumb to ailments that call for the proper and judicious use of products designed and registered to cure the ailment.
L.O. believes in appropriate regulations that protect the environment, public health and safety. Regulations should be based on fact, not activism. This industry is committed to reduced pesticide use and improved education through Integrated Pest Management approaches. We would encourage continuing interaction with government to reduce - not ban, - the use of pesticides through integrated and sustainable programs.