Two takes:
The PMRA Healthy Lawns Strategy Report

By Tony DiGiovanni, executive director, Landscape Ontario (LO)

The Pesticide issue continues to be controversial and divisive. Environmental activists and several federal government initiatives have been calling for a ban on pesticides for what they term “cosmetic uses.” Landscape Ontario (LO) has had a consistent view on pesticide use from the beginning and has been lobbying against a ban. Our position has always and continues to be that knowledge leads to risk reduction.

     If we focus all of our energies on encouraging knowledge of horticulture, pests, pesticides and alternatives we can greatly reduce pesticide risk. This knowledge process has been defined as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Plant Health Care (PHC).

     The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) invited many stakeholders to a meeting in Aylmer, QC, March 1 and 2 to get feedback on the PMRA response to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, which was calling for a ban on pesticides. PMRA is the agency of Health Canada responsible for regulating pesticides and were obligated to respond to the Standing Committee.

     In general terms, the proposed PMRA response is very similar to what LO has been promoting. The difference is that we call our response IPM. PMRA calls their program the “Healthy Lawns Strategy.”

The objective of the Healthy Lawns Strategy is:

“To reduce reliance on pesticide use for lawn care through the application of IPM principles, with particular emphasis on pest prevention, use of reduced risk products and application of pesticides only when necessary.”

     The PMRA Healthy Lawns Strategy is very similar to what LO’s position has been from the origins of the association. If all stakeholders focus on knowledge of horticulture, pests, pesticides and alternatives, pesticide risk can be greatly reduced. We look forward to working with PMRA in achieving their Healthy Lawns Strategy goals, and at the same time, promote the joys and benefits of horticulture.

Following is the detail of the PMRA proposed action plan together with the LO position.
  1. Product types available to stakeholders
    The main issue considered was the future of fertilizer/herbicide (Weed and Feed) products for the homeowner and whether they are consistent with IPM principles.

    LO position: We believe that there is a place for Weed and Feed formulations. Problems result through lack of homeowner knowledge. There are many ways of improving knowledge through better packaging and information, as well as control at the retail level — without banning Weed and Feed formulations.

  2. Classification of domestic products
    PMRA suggests subdividing the current Domestic (Homeowner) Class into two domestic categories based on various criteria. Only licensed vendors who have certified staff would sell Domestic 1. Domestic 2 products could be sold anywhere.

    LO position: We are in favour of subdividing the current classification system based on product risk potential. We are also in favour of certification scheme to ensure that vendors of Domestic 1 products would always have knowledgeable, certified staff available.

  3. Label improvements for domestic products
    PMRA is considering improving domestic labelling requirements.

    LO position: We are in favour of any changes that would help the homeowner understand how to use the products safely and effectively.

  4. Training and certification of vendors of domestic products
    PMRA is considering the requirement of vendors of Domestic 1 product to undergo a certification process.

    LO position: LO has had extensive history in promoting and administering knowledge and practical based certification programs that are cost effective, credible, efficient and not burdensome. We agree with the PMRA certification proposal and will offer to administer the program. This proposal is consistent with our IPM approach to the Pesticide issue.

  5. Pesticide applicator training and certification for professional service providers
    PMRA is proposing enhancement of the current Licensing system for professionals to include more training in IPM principles and to require re-certification based on professional development activity.

    LO position: LO embraces this proposal. We believe that curriculum’s should include more IPM and that ongoing education be recognized for re-certification schemes. We also encourage other provinces to implement Ontario’s Pesticide Technician Program.

  6. Homeowner education
    PMRA proposes developing a public education program that would promote the goals of the Healthy Lawns Strategy.

    LO position: LO believes that public education in horticulture is the best way to achieve healthy gardens while reducing pesticide risk. We will do everything we can to provide homeowner with information that will encourage optimum horticultural practices.