Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 31, 2004
Canada winning eco-turf war
U.S. pesticide execs up in arms over Canada's war against chemicals
By SUZANNE ELSTON
It's 1812 all over again. Apparently we are at war with our good neighbours to the south, and once again we're winning. But unlike the previous conflict that was fought on the frontlines, this war's being fought on the front lawns.
It would appear that good old Canadian activism and common sense are threatening the U.S. chemical lawn care industry. According to Chris Lemcke, technical coordinator of Weed Man USA, "Although our businesses continue to grow in Canada, the activists are winning the political battle in demonizing our industry, and we're behind the train fighting what they're saying. The United States still has the opportunity to be in front of the train, with the activists at the back."
Hand me my redcoat, Mama, I'm going to get me a Yankee.
The problem all started when the town of Hudson, Que., got tired of seeing its young people die of cancer, and passed a bylaw banning the cosmetic use of pesticides in 1991. The lawn care companies fought back and took the town to court. The case dragged on for years, but finally in 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the rights of Hudson to ban the use of pesticides.
Paul Revere might just as well have ridden through the streets of every town in Canada yelling, "The Weed Man is coming, The Weed Man is coming," because the next thing you know, virtually every city, town and hamlet was looking at restricting pesticide use.
And that's what's making our U.S. neighbours nervous. Jim Campanella, president of the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA), said, "Once our foes, or the self-proclaimed environmentalists, get their hands on a model that works, they'll bring it from Canada and go from community to community with it in the U.S," he says.
But the threat doesn't end there. Unlike some enemies of the state, we do have weapons of mass destruction. In April, Canada's first non-chemical pesticide registered with Health Canada hit store shelves, thereby marking the beginning of the end of chemical lawn-care.
TurfMaize is now available across the country in Canadian Tire, Sheridan Nurseries and other garden centres. The product, which is distributed exclusively in Canada by The Environmental Factor and Nutrite, works by inhibiting the seed germination of weeds such as dandelions and crabgrass.
Almost on cue, the Ontario College of Family Physicians released the most comprehensive review of research on the effects of pesticides on humans. The College examined 12,000 studies worldwide, and concluded that there is no evidence that one pesticide is less dangerous than another and "strongly recommended that people reduce their exposure to pesticides wherever possible."
The review showed consistent links to serious illnesses such as cancer, reproductive problems and neurological diseases. Not surprisingly, children are the most vulnerable to these effects.
Apparently the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives agrees. It claims that man-made chemicals in air, water, food and the workplace are largely to blame for a devastating cancer epidemic that strikes 41 per cent of Canadian males and 38 per cent of females. More than 18 million kilograms of known carcinogens were released into the Canadian environment in 2001, according to the federal government's National Pollutant Release Inventory.
Undaunted, the pesticide industry struck back with its own take on the battle, "Pesticides used properly constitute no unacceptable risk to people's health or the environment," said Lorne Hepworth, president of CropLife of Canada. CropLife is a trade association representing multinational pesticide manufacturers.
Clearly, Canadians are beginning to disagree.
"People do not have the right to carry a gun and shoot at will and people do not have the right to grab hold of poisons and spray at will," wrote Oakville resident Tania Orton. "Gardening is not a crime, but poisoning your neighbours is."
So, put your right hand on your TurfMaize, and your left hand on your radio, and sing along with me, "Oh, Canada, we shall be pesticide-free!"
Recommended websites:The Ontario College of Family Physicians review of pesticide research is available at www.ocfp.on.ca. For more about Canada's first chemical-free pesticide and other organic lawn care products, visit ww.environmentalfactor.com. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is located at www.policyalternatives.ca. Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory website is located at www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/npri/npri_home_e.cfm.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.